Scientists successfully test harpoon that catches space debris

Scientists successfully test harpoon that catches space debris
Photo credit: Newshub

Scientists in the United Kingdom have successfully tested a harpoon which can collect space debris.

It is a one of its kind experiment taking place hundreds of kilometres above Earth where a space harpoon spears a target one and a half metres away.

The invention was designed to clean up space junk, of which there is believed to be more than 750,000 fragments larger than one centimetre orbiting the our planet.

Any of them could pose a threat to spaceflight or knock out a satellite.

"Space debris is a really big problem, we're launching more and more spacecraft every day, and we're using space more and more in our everyday lives," said Alastair Wayman, Airbus advanced project engineer.

"One object could strike another and could cause a cascade effect that could actually destroy all of the things that we use daily and take for granted, like GPS, satellite navigation, telephones, the internet, and all those things that we all know and love," said Simon Fellowes, RemoveDEBRIS project programme manager.

Experts at Airbus believe harpoons that are best known for spearing whales are the tools for the job.

The harpoon uses barbs which catch the debris and a cable attached to a very small spacecraft which pulls the junk back into the atmosphere where it burns up.

While it may be years away from being operational, scientists believe it could be a big step towards cleaning up the junkyard that space has become.


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