The University of Surrey's RemoveDEBRIS satellite has successfully used its on-board net technology in orbit, the first demonstration in history of active debris removal (ADR) technology.
The spacecraft used a net which expanded like a giant web to capture a deployed target simulating a piece of space debris, scientists revealed a press release.
This is all in the effort to reduce 7.6 tonnes of "space junk" estimated to be floating around the Earth’s orbit, some of which is moving at speeds of 48,000 km/h – and pose dangers to everything from expensive communication satellites to, one day, space tourists.
“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 coordination between the Surrey Space Centre, Airbus and our partners – but there is more work to be done,” said Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of the Surrey Space Centre.
It took six years of testing in parabolic flights, in special drop towers and in thermal vacuum chambers to get the net technology to work.
The satellite will do further tests using ADR technology including:
It’s final test will be to deploy a drag-sail that will bring it into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.
RemoveDEBRIS was designed, built, and manufactured by a consortium of space companies and research institutions led by the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey. The spacecraft is operated in orbit by engineers at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in Guildford, UK. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.
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