Video: RemoveDEBRIS satellite deploys a Net and Captures Space Debris for the First Time in History

Orbital debris is a really big problem: they can cause collisions in space, and these collisions could have serious consequences to the space station and satellites. The space junk literally can end space exploration and destroy the modern way of life. And the problem is getting worse each year as we are slowly filling the most important part just above us, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO), with junk.

Space agencies and scientists taking this problem very seriously and trying to develop active debris removal (ADR) technologies.  On June 20, 2018, the International Space Station deployed the RemoveDEBRIS satellite which 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 satellite has successfully used its onboard net and captured a nanosatellite that simulates space debris.

The Surrey Nanosats SSC Mission Delivery Team published the raw video of the experiment which you can watch below. It is really, really cool! 

The first video of the Net experiment successfully capturing the deployed cubesat. On June 20, 2018, the International Space Station deployed the NanoRacks-RemoveDEBRIS satellite into space from outside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. This technology demonstration was designed to explore using a 3D camera to map the location and speed of orbital debris or “space junk.” The NanoRacks-RemoveDEBRIS satellite successfully deployed a net to capture a nanosatellite that simulates debris.

RemoveDEBRIS Satellite

The RemoveDEBRIS satellite consists of a large, 100 kg (220 lbs) main satellite that carries two smaller cubesats and a net. The mission involves deploying these nanosatellites as artificial space junk and them capturing them to demonstrate the effectiveness of debris removal technology. On June 20, 2018, the first one of these nanosatellites was successfully captured.

Before the launch, the technology has been tested for six years here on Earth. 

RemoveDEBRIS satellite aboard ISS
Expedition 56 flight engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA prepares the RemoveDEBRIS satellite for deployment aboard the International Space Station. The satellite was successfully deployed from the NanoRacks deployer on station June 20, 2018. RemoveDEBRIS, one of the world’s first attempts to address the buildup of dangerous space debris orbiting Earth, was sent to the ISS via the SpaceX CRS-14 launch in early April. The satellite 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 project is co-funded by the European Commission. Image: NASA.gov

In the coming months, The RemoveDEBRIS mission will perform four experiments, including the first harpoon capture in orbit and a net that will be used on a deployed target. The team will also test a vision-based navigation system that uses cameras and  LiDaR Notes 1 to observe CubeSats that will be released from the main spacecraft. Finally, the RemoveDEBRIS craft will deploy a large sail that will drag it into the Earth’s atmosphere, where it will be destroyed.

Notes

  1. LiDaR is a surveying method that measures the distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths can then be used to make digital 3-D representations of the target. The name lidar, now used as an acronym of light detection and ranging, was originally a portmanteau of light and radar.

Sources

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