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A British satellite has successfully deployed a net in orbit to demonstrate how to capture space debris. The event took place more than 300km above the Earth. It was part of a series of trials that will showcase different technologies to remove the redundant hardware now circling the Earth.
Some 7,500 tonnes is said to be drifting aimlessly overhead, posing a collision hazard to operational missions. The aptly named RemoveDebris satellite took a video of its net experiment. The short sequence shows a small, shoebox-sized object tumbling end over end about 6-8m in front of the University of Surrey spacecraft. Suddenly, a bright web, fired from the satellite, comes into view. It extends outwards and smothers the box.
“It worked just as we hoped it would,” said Prof Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre. “The target was spinning like you would expect an uncooperative piece of junk to behave, but you can see clearly that the net captures it, and we’re very happy with the way the experiment went.”
As well as the net the Satellite also demonstrates a “harpoon” to snare space-junk and a “drag-sail” which drags objects out of orbit so they burn up in the earth´s atmosphere.