FISH­ING FOR SPACE JUNK

A MAS­SIVE net could be the an­swer to clear­ing up ‘space junk’.

First News - - FRONT PAGE - by ed­i­tor in chief Nicky Cox

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.

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