Satellite launched to harpoon 'dangerous' space junk

A mission demonstrating how to salvage potentially dangerous junk orbiting the Earth has been launched by a British-led consortium.
The satellite, called RemoveDEBRIS, will be deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) and carries a net to capture space litter and a harpoon that is able to spear and haul in bigger objects.On Monday, a Space X 9 rocket carrying the box-like craft took off from the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral, Florida.The RemoveDEBRIS is currently on board the capsule and is due to arrive at the ISS on Wednesday.
Satellite launched to harpoon 'dangerous' space junk

New tech to clean up space
A consortium led by the University of Surrey designed and built RemoveDEBRIS, which is funded by the European Commission and is the first practical attempt to try out clean-up technology.The launch came less than a day after Chinese space station Tiangong-1 crashed down to Earth.Experts believe it is likely to have broken up harmlessly above the South Pacific, but there is uncertainty about its exact fate.In a tweet, astronomer Jonathan McDowell, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, said it appeared to have come down north west of Tahiti.
Satellite launched to harpoon 'dangerous' space junk

Space harpoon in action
NASA tracks more than 20,000 pieces of debris larger than a cricket ball orbiting the Earth at speeds of up to 17,500mph.
Though the chances are low, a collision between even a small object and a spacecraft carrying valuable equipment or a human crew would be disastrous.In 2009, a Russian satellite collided with and destroyed the functioning Iridium communications satellite, adding more than 2,000 extra pieces of trackable debris to the growing amount of space junk.Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, said: "It is important to remember that a few significant collisions have already happened.
Satellite launched to harpoon 'dangerous' space junk

A harpoon to catch dead satellites
"Therefore, to maintain the safety of current and future space assets, the issue of the control and reduction of the space debris has to be addressed."We believe the technologies we will be demonstrating with RemoveDEBRIS could provide feasible answers to the space junk problem - answers that could be used on future space missions in the very near future."
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A net will be discharged to wrap around and ensnare a target CubeSat miniature satellite in the first in a series of experiments, which will also include another which will involve firing a harpoon at a target plate.Science minister Sam Gyimah said: "Space debris is a growing concern so it's great to see a British university and our innovative space sector leading the way in the search for solutions."
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