FISHING FOR SPACE JUNK
A MASSIVE net could be the answer to clearing up ‘space junk’.
More than 7,600 tonnes of space junk floats around the Earth – the result of nearly 60 years of space exploration – with some bits moving faster than a bullet, at around 48,000km/h (30,000mph).
The worry is that these 40,000 objects could crash into, and damage, working satellites.
Now it looks like a small satellite called RemoveDEBRIS might be the fix. RemoveDEBRIS was launched to the International Space Station earlier this year, after being created by a team of international scientists and engineers.
On Sunday, it showed how it can fish space junk out of orbit using a massive net, by catching its first piece of rubbish. The plan is for the net, and what it captured, to plummet towards Earth, where they will burn up.
“We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of the net technology,” said Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre and part of the RemoveDEBRIS team. “While it might sound like a simple idea, the complexity of using a net in space to capture a piece of debris took many years of planning, engineering and co-ordination between the Surrey Space Centre, Airbus and our partners, but there is more work to be done,” he added.
A new camera system to track debris, as well as a harpoon, will be tested over the coming months.
Pollution down here on Earth is a big enough problem. Hopefully, a future RemoveDEBRIS fleet can stop it from becoming as bad above in space.