Monday 23 July 2018

Space is final frontier for litter picker

Found in space: litter picker RemoveDebris
Found in space: litter picker RemoveDebris

Sarah Knapton

The world's most advanced litter-picker will be launched into space next week to clean up floating debris threatening satellites and the International Space Station (ISS).

Surrey University has designed a craft which can grab space junk then pull it into Earth's atmosphere where it is burned up.

The little vessel, named RemoveDebris, is due to launch from the Kennedy Space Centre on Monday on board one of Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets.

It will dock at the ISS first and then deploy on its own on a test mission to snare a small satellite using a harpoon and net.

It is estimated there are more than 7,600 tonnes of space junk in and around Earth's orbit -with some approaching speeds of 48,000kph and a huge threat to satellites and space stations.

In 2016, a small piece of debris chipped a window on the ISS.

The mission, which has been funded by the European Commission, is the first genuine attempt to clean up space junk orbiting our planet.

The tiny spaceship will perform two experiments - firstly deploying and then capturing a small cubesat satellite, using a net and then a harpoon.

The spacecraft will then deploy a large dragsail to allow it to fall out of orbit, where it will burn up in the atmosphere.

Since 1957, more than 5,250 launches have led to tens of thousands of tracked objects in orbit. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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