Satellite that will Harpoon Space Junk Begins Test Flight

The RemoveDEBRIS satellite was deployed from the International Space Station on June 20, 2018. This was the third major micro satellite deployment for NanoRacks (a Houston-based company coordinating RemoveDEBRIS’ deployment) and the largest satellite that has been deployed from the ISS.

RemoveDEBRIS is one of the world’s first attempts to address the build-up of space debris orbiting Earth. reported that RemoveDEBRIS will demonstrate active space debris-removal technologies, including a harpoon, a net, and a drag sail.

The ground controllers will spend the next two months switching on all the satellite’s subsystems and checking that they work as designed, according to Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey and principal investigator of the European Union-funded, 5.2-million- euro ($18.7 million) mission.

Experiments are expected to start in September. The debris-catching net equipment, which was developed by Airbus in Germany, will be conducted in October. The satellite will release a cubesat, let it drift away a small distance, and then eject the net to capture the cubesat.

In December, RemoveDEBRIS will test vision-based navigation technologies developed by Airbus in France. The satellite will use a set of 2D cameras and a 3D lidar technology to track a second cubesat as it floats away from the main satellite.

In February of 2019, RemoveDEBRIS will fire a harpoon into a panel that will deploy from the main spacecraft attached to a boom. Sometime in March 2019, RemoveDEBRIS will deploy a sail, which will speed up its deorbiting ability.