An experiment on the capture of space debris using the harpoon was a success

British experimental probe Remove DEBRIS successfully coped with the second part of the test systems for collecting debris, the first produced in space conditions, capture the object with a harpoon, reported on the website in the press release of the University of Surrey. Recall that in the first test, conducted in September last year, the unit seized the layout of the debris with a trapping network for the first time showing real potential use of such technologies for cleaning of near-earth space.

According to current estimates, the Earth’s orbit has more than 750 million objects larger than one centimeter, and the average speed of these objects is more than 40 000 kilometres per hour. The same estimates say that the total weight of these objects is more than 7600 tons. Needless to say that a collision with one of them can result in serious consequences for most satellites, the International space station, unmanned and manned vehicles?

In recent years, scientists have developed several dozen options of systems that would help to solve this problem. For example, Chinese physicists proposed to install on the ISS a powerful laser that will “shoot down” space junk, experts from NASA propose to raise it with ships,”tall ships”.

In June last year on the IVSC was delivered one such decision — probe Remove DEBRIS aimed at developing technologies of harvesting near-earth orbit from space debris. It was created by British engineers at the University of Surrey and Airbus in the framework of the project, the implementation of which the EU contributed 5.2 million euros.

Camera, the size of a small refrigerator, consists of the probe Remove DEBRIS, two metal plates, which play the role of models of space debris, nets, harpoon, sail, cameras, and equipment for navigation.

Scheme of the probe Remove DEBRIS

Last year was a successful network testing and three-dimensional laser radar, which is used to find and monitor space debris. According to Guglielmo Aletti, scientific head of the mission, the most difficult part of the test took almost six months of preparation. But expectations were met.

During the last experiment for the ISS crew tested the capture of an object in orbit using a harpoon. As the layout of the debris was used one of the walls cubata, which is installed at a distance of 1.5 meters from Remove DEBRIS. The last shot her harpoon at a speed of 20 meters. That was enough to break the metal plate and grab it. Video of the experiment can be viewed below.

“Space debris can cause serious consequences for communication systems on Earth if it collides with the still functioning satellites. This amazing project has shown that this problem can be solved using a simple harpoon is a tool that mankind has enjoyed since time immemorial”, — quotes the words of Chris Skidmore, Minister of science of the UK, commented on the successful testing of the harpoon, the site of the University of Surrey.

Remove DEBRIS the team is now preparing for the final phase of the experiment – the destruction of the fragments of debris caught in the Earth’s atmosphere. Its going to take place in March of this year. The probe will release a special sail, which will slow down Remove DEBRIS and drag it into the atmosphere along with pieces of trash caught where they will burn.