First Satellite to Collect Space Junk Deployed From ISS

First Satellite to Collect Space Junk Deployed From ISS

There are more than 22,000 pieces of man-made debris larger than 4 inches (10cm) now being tracked by the US Space Surveillance Network.

Under the project, the device will conduct its first test clean-up mission with the debris-catching net in October, before deploying the VBN system in December. RemoveDebris, will attempt to address the build-up of risky space debris orbiting Earth. A small cubesat will be launched from the spacecraft after it drifts about 5 to 7 meters, a net will be deployed and it is created to catch the satellite and drag it into the atmosphere, where it will burn up.

The International Space Station has launched RemoveDebris, the first spacecraft that will attempt to clean up the space junk that has started to accumulate around the Earth.

More than 7,000 tons of space junk is believed to be orbiting around our planet.

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Astronauts at the space station sent the 100-kilogram (220 lbs.) RemoveDebris spacecraft off for its pioneering mission using Canadarm2, the 17.6-meter-long (57.7 feet) robotic arm used for servicing and capturing cargo ships. With debris traveling at thousands of miles per hour, even small fragments could lead to catastrophe collisions with manned or unmanned spacecraft and destroy hugely expensive technology.

The satellite was designed, built and manufactured by a consortium of leading space companies and research institutions, led by the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, UK.

For the next couple months, engineers will stay in contact with RemoveDEBRIS, although it's not expected to break out its harpoon until experiments begin toward the end of this year. UK Space Agency spokesperson said. The payload was delivered by SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket back in April into the orbit where the SpaceX Dragon spaceflight took it to the ISS. More experiments will follow in 2019, with the harpoon test scheduled for February. It will then burn up as it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere, but it will have served its objective by then of determining the efficiency of the space junk cleaning experiments.

"If successful, the technologies found in RemoveDEBRIS could be included in other missions in the very near future", said Guglielmo Aglietti, Professor at the University of Surrey.

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