International Space Station Is About To Do Something Amazing

Posted: Jun 24 2018, 12:22pm CDT | by , Updated: Jun 26 2018, 1:32pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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International Space Station Is About To Do Something Amazing

The ISS has deployed a satellite that is capable of harpooning space junk.

The International Space Station has released a satellite that will be focused on dealing with the problem of space junk and debris that is gradually getting worse. And it will possess the amazing capability of harpooning space junk to remove it from orbit.

The orbit around Earth has been filling up for years with destroyed or defunct satellites and, while the situation is not critical yet, authorities recognize that it is time to start cleaning up before catastrophic collisions become more common. A cube-shaped satellite developed by a number of companies called RemoveDEBRIS actually has a harpoon that can spear space junk and then collect it.

RemoveDERBIS was released by robotic arm Canadarm2, and scientists have estalished contact with the 220-pound satellite. For the next few months, RemoveDEBRIS will conduct experiments, although it will not use its harpoon until closer to 2019. RemoveDEBRIS will have other tools at its disposal, like a net and a large drag sail.

"NanoRacks-Remove Debris demonstrates an approach to reducing the risks presented by space debris or 'space junk,'" NASA says in a statement. "Collisions in space may have serious consequences, but research has shown that removing the largest debris significantly reduces the chance of collisions. NanoRacks-Remove Debris demonstrates using a 3D camera to map location and speed of debris and deploying a net to capture and de-orbit simulated debris up to 1m in size. Analysis of video of the demonstration runs back on Earth increases understanding of debris that needs removal and how best to do so."

The University of Surrey in the UK said that RemoveDEBRIS is aimed at performing "key Active Debris Removal (ADR) technology demonstrations" that would be representative of an operational scenario.

"The mission will comprise of a main satellite platform (~100kg) that once in orbit will deploy two CubeSats as artificial debris targets to demonstrate some of the technologies (net capture, harpoon capture, vision-based navigation, dragsail de-orbitation)," the statement reads. "The project is co-funded by the European Commission and the project partners, and is led by the Surrey Space Centre (SSC), University of Surrey, UK. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No. 607099."

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