On the whole, space is empty. However, the space around the Earth is full of satellites, debris and junk from many rocket launch over the past few years. For that reason, launching satellites in the future would be greatly affected. Any one of them could be taken out by a piece of junk in space.
Good thing is that it can be addressed today. The only way to put an end to this problem is to clean up space as soon as possible. Though it sounds easy and simple, it is very complicated in reality. A variety of organizations such as NASA, and space agencies from Japan and China have already developed their prototype debris catchers. On April 2, RemoveDEBRIS was launched. In the coming weeks, it will undergo an in-depth testing to identify whether the launch is successful or not.
RemoveDEBRIS is a creation of a team of qualified engineers and talented scientists at the University of Surrey Space Center which is funded by the European Commission. The satellite is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS). This is where astronauts will assemble as well as launch it into space.
From ISS, the prototype satellite will test different approaches for catching junk. It will launch small cubesats that will act as targets and the satellite will capture them with a net and a harpoon. These methods have been proposed to remove junk from space as much as possible. Nevertheless, both have not been tested before. This is going to be the first test for both techniques, which could inform missions to clean up the orbits of the Earth in the coming years.
The moment that experiments have carried out, the satellite will set out a drag sail to bring it back into the atmosphere. Designers hope to make the mission successful so that future missions would become much safer.
Dangers of Space Junk
Debris on space travels around the Earth over 22,000 miles per hour. Anything that travels at this high velocity would cause a potential damage to a spacecraft. Even a fleck of paint that travels at this speed can lead to a hole into a space station window.
Due to the hundreds of objects that fly on space, collisions between large debris would produce more damaging fragments. That is why the prototype satellite was launched to lessen the risk wherein present and future exploration would get an advantage!