Video: Net successfully snares space debris

September 19, 2018, University of Surrey
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The RemoveDEBRIS satellite has successfully used its on-board net technology in orbit – the first demonstration in human history of active debris removal (ADR) technology.

The spacecraft began the experimental phase of its mission on Sunday 16 September, when it used a net to capture a deployed target simulating a piece of .

RemoveDEBRIS 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. The spacecraft is operated in by engineers at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in Guildford, UK. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of the Surrey Space Centre, said: "We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of the net technology. While it might sound like a simple idea, the complexity of using a net in space to capture a piece of 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. These are very exciting times for us all."

Ingo Retat, Airbus RemoveDEBRIS project head, said: "To develop this net technology to capture space debris we spent 6 years testing in parabolic flights, in special drop towers and also thermal vacuum chambers. Our small team of engineers and technicians have done an amazing job moving us one step closer to clearing up low Earth orbit."

First video of the net experiment successfully capturing the deployed cubesat. The Remove Debris mission comprises 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). Credit: Surrey Nanosats SSC Mission Delivery Team

In the coming months, RemoveDEBRIS will test more ADR technologies: a vision-based navigation system that uses cameras and LiDaR technology to analyse and observe potential pieces of debris; the first harpoon capture technology used in orbit; and a drag-sail that will finally bring RemoveDEBRIS into the Earth's atmosphere where it will be destroyed, bringing its mission to a close.

The US Space Surveillance Network tracks 40,000 objects and it is estimated that there are more than 7,600 tonnes of 'space junk' in and around Earth's orbit—with some moving faster than a speeding bullet, approaching speeds of 30,000 miles per hour.

Explore further: A satellite with a harpoon, net and drag sail to capture space junk is in orbit and will be tested soon

Related Stories

InflateSail CubeSat comes to a successful and fiery end

September 15, 2017

InflateSail, a CubeSat with a lightweight sail mounted on an inflatable mast, was designed, built and tested at the Surrey Space Centre (SSC) in the University of Surrey on behalf of the Von Karman Institute in Belgium.

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Sep 19, 2018
Don't miss?
4.5 / 5 (2) Sep 19, 2018
A flotilla of cheap robot/drone trawlers is the next step.

Just haul the junk out of traffic and away from valued satellites. Nothing fancy or needing any special technology.
3 / 5 (4) Sep 19, 2018
LOL That first photo has got to be a shot of the dandruff dropping off jonesdave's head.

But anyway, it is good that they have finally decided to remove those space-hazards to be recycled. Perhaps it will become really useful when Communist China sends up a satellite armed with lasers/projectiles aimed/pointed at non-Commie nations.
1 / 5 (1) Sep 20, 2018
segue, stop cowering, crawl out from under your mommies bed & get back to your middle-school history lessons.

Stay awake long enough to pay attention to Neil Degrasse Tyson describing, how one single shot from one single armed satellite destroying one single target satellite? Would cause a cascade of destruction throughout all the other satellites in orbit! Including your own.

There's no doubt, that you & trumpenella are stupid enough to shoot yourselves in the foot.

I doubt if the Chinese leadership are that stupid. China is even more dependent on fragile orbital communications than the US.

You remind me of the idiot commentator who raved that he would never listen to commie chink advice.

So I asked..."If the Chinese Communist technician was trying to warm you not to exit an airlock without a p-suit? You would disregard & go out anyway? To prove that "Super White Patriot" could breathe vacuum?

Explains why all you altright fairytails are brain dead!
not rated yet Sep 20, 2018
One down, 40000+ more to go... The hard part is the enormous volume the junk is scattered over, in wildly differing orbits.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.