The RemoveDEBRIS satellite, one of the world’s first attempts to address the build-up of dangerous space debris, has successfully used its on-board harpoon-capture system in orbit.
The Airbus Stevenage designed harpoon featured a 1.5 metre boom deployed from the main RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft with a piece of satellite panel on the end. The harpoon was fired at 20 metres/sec to penetrate the target and demonstrate the ability of a harpoon to capture debris.
This marks the third successful experiment for the RemoveDEBRIS project. It previously used its on-board net to capture a simulated piece of debris, and then trialled its state-of-the-art LiDAR and camera based vision navigation system to identify space junk.
The team is now preparing for the final experiment, which is set to take place in March and will see RemoveDEBRIS inflate a sail that will drag the satellite into Earth’s atmosphere where it will be destroyed.
Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, said: “This is RemoveDEBRIS’ most demanding experiment and the fact that it was a success is testament to all involved. The RemoveDEBRIS project provides strong evidence of what can be achieved with the power of collaboration – pooling together the experience across industry and the research field to achieve something truly remarkable.”