The space net demonstration, which occurred Sunday (Sept. 16), is part of the European RemoveDebris mission, designed to test active debris-removal techniques in space for the first time. The target wasn’t an actual piece of space junk but a small cubesat measuring (10 x10 x 20 centimeters, or 4 x 4 x 8 inches) that was released by the main RemoveDebris spacecraft shortly before the capture experiment.
“It went very well,” said RemoveDebris mission principal investigator Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. “The net deployed nicely, and so did the structure attached to the cubesat. We are now downloading the data, which will take a few weeks, since we only can do that when we have contact with the satellite. But so far, everything looks great.” [7 Ways to Clean Up Space Junk]
RemoveDebris is a refrigerator-size spacecraft built by satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL), which is part of the RemoveDebris consortium together with the University of Surrey, the aerospace company Airbus and other European companies. It’s designed to test space-junk-cleanup methods in orbit. In addition to the debris-catching net, the satellite is equipped with a small harpoon, a visual-tracking system and a drag sail.
The net demonstration is the first test so far for RemoveDebris, and it began when the satellite released its CubeSat target on Sunday.
Once the cubesat drifted about 19 feet (6 meters) from the chaser RemoveDebris craft, the satellite deployed a 3-foot-wide (1 m) inflatable structure that increased the object’s size to match that of a real target. Then, the chaser satellite ejected the net using a spring-loaded mechanism. The entire sequence was preprogrammed and took about 2 to 3 minutes to complete, Aglietti said.
read more at space.com