ISS Deploys First Space Debris Removal Tool

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The RemoveDEBRIS satellite has been set-off from the ISS on a task to examine the rising amount of debris orbiting the Earth. The microsatellite was deployed from the International Space Station on June 20, 2018. Different organizations have different amounts of junk that they're tracking, but the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) tracks over 23,000 large amounts of debris larger than a softball, and it's suspected that there are countless more tiny bits of debris which are impossible to track. And even then, the harpoon is just a single tool in the veritable Swiss army knife that is RemoveDEBRIS, which also contains a net for catching space debris and a large drag sail for braking and deorbiting itself, each of which needs to be tested separately. A consortium of leading space companies and research institutions, led by the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, UK. designed, built and manufactured the satellite. "We all are thrilled to observe the outcomes of the experiments and the influence this initiative might have in the forthcoming years". "That's because we want to capture a high-definition video of each experiment, and to have a nice video, you need to wait for the spacecraft to be in the right position and to have the right illumination".

The Britain-built satellite testing possible solutions to clean up space junk is soon to begin experiments in orbit, the UK Space Agency said. It would be shot at the debris and capture it.

In December, RemoveDebris will test vision-based navigation technology developed by Airbus in Toulouse, France.

In February 2019, the last of Airbus' three experiments will take place.

The drag sail is meant to allow the satellite to de-orbit quicker and burn up faster in the Earth's atmosphere.

The ISS has used its 17-metre-long robotic Canadarm2 to release the RemoveDebris to start its mission.

NanoRacks, the Houston-based company coordinating RemoveDebris' deployment says the RemoveDebris is the largest payload to be deployed from ISS. 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.

"We expect that RemoveDebris will deorbit in less than 10 weeks", he said.

"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.