The RemoveDEBRIS satellite has lived up to its name. The spacecraft showed a successful demonstration of its on-board active debris removal (ADR) technology Sunday, September 16, 2018.
During the experiment, the net captured a deployed target that simulated a piece of space debris.
“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 debris 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,” says Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre.
This satellite fills a growing need in the space industry. According to the University of Surrey, 40,000 objects are tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, which equates to more than 7,600 metric tons (tonnes) of space junk. Some of this debris is even moving as fast as 30,000 miles per hour.
The satellite was developed by a group of leading researchers from multiple institutions and companies. However, the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey led the way.
“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,” says Airbus RemoveDEBRIS Project Head Ingo Retat.
The future holds nothing but tests, tests, and more tests for RemoveDEBRIS. Three improvements include:
- Harpoon capture technology
- Cameras and lidar systems for vison-based navigation
- Drag sail for atmosphere re-entry
You can watch the net demonstration in the video below.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense