Watch a harpoon successfully spear a piece of space junk
This is the third in a series of successful space trash clean up tests by the removeDEBRIS spacecraft.
Gotcha: The RemoveDEBRIS satellite, created by a team at the University of Surrey, has pulled off its most demanding experiment yet. It fired in harpoon at 20 meters a second at a separate satellite panel that was holding at the end of a boom. As you can see in the video above, the harpoon succeeded in stabbing and capturing the item. Last year the team also accurately fired a satellite to capture it, and tested out a LiDAR and camera-based system for identifying space junk.
The space landfill: Earth's orbit is full of space junk. Right now there are more than 7,600 tons of space junk floating around our planet. And that's a problem, because the more things we send up, the greater the chances they crash into each other. That is much more, narrower bits or junk, which would be serious danger to future space missions (while dramatized, see the movie Gravity ).
Cleaning up the mess: The final test by RemoveDEBRIS in March will be an act of self-sacrifice. The satellite will inflate to sail designed to carry itself into Earth's atmosphere where it will burn up. If more satellites clean up afterwards when there is job done like this, we can prevent more junk piling up in orbit.
Want to stay up to date on the latest in space technology? Sign up for our space newsletter, The Airlock.