British Satellite, RemoveDEBRIS, to clean up space junk

It deploys nets to capture useless space junk.

  • It's a prototype but the test just conducted has proven its viability.
  • It was designed by the University of Surrey Space Centre.
  • The video below demonstrates how it works.


The beginning of a solution to the problem?

With more than 500,000 space debris objects orbiting Earth, and some of them traveling faster than a speeding bullet at 17,500 mph, these projectiles could serious damage to spacecrafts. However, new technology — six years in development — has resulted in a new satellite called RemoveDEBRIS. Its goal? Clean up the celestial junk.

There are two possible ways the craft can accomplish its mission:

1.) A large net that will capture space junk and drag it down to the Earth's atmosphere, where it will burn up.

2.) A "harpoon," which will spear potential debris and then reel it in like a fish, then deploy a drag sail to pull the objects down out of orbit.

Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Centre, told the magazine Sky News he was delighted that they had overcome the technical challenges involved.

"The difficulty that we have is that you want to capture your piece of debris with the net, you want to envelop the piece of debris, then at the same time you want to draw a string so you actually capture the thing so it can't escape," he said. "To synchronise all this, as you can imagine, is a bit challenging."

Here's the thing in action:

The net worked in testing, just as intended. More tests to come.

For the test, which was conducted on September 16, a toaster-sized piece of debris — actually, a CubeSat — was released from the craft. The craft deployed its net as intended, and the net captured the debris. It will drag it down to our atmosphere and then burn up upon re-entry. After the harpoon testing, the drag sail itself will be deployed by RemoveDEBRIS, dragging it down to destruction in our atmosphere.

Develop mindfulness to boost your creative intelligence

Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned mindfulness leader, teaches meditation at Big Think Edge.

Image: Big Think
Big Think Edge
  • Try meditation for the first time with this guided lesson or, if you already practice, enjoy being guided by a world-renowned meditation expert.
  • Sharon Salzberg teaches mindfulness meditation for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

For a long time, the West shaped the world. That time is over.

The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.

Videos
  • Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
  • European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Keep reading Show less

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

Shutterstock
Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less