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Giant harpoons could be the answer to our space junk issue

In case you haven’t heard, space junk is an more and more major problem for our planet. The International Space Station has been compelled to take steps to offer protection to itself from floating particles, whilst China is dreaming of an afternoon when it could actually zap orbiting clutter out of the sky the use of lasers. Now, Airbus is trying out its personal manner of coping with the biggest chunks of space junk: an enormous harpoon.

As BBC reviews, the corporate’s plan is a two-part device. First, a nimble “chase vehicle” spacecraft would be introduced into orbit looking for particles akin to defunct satellites. Then, the chase craft would release its tough harpoon against the object, piercing its steel hull and securing it with sturdy barbs that clutch the edges of the new opening and pull it again against the spacecraft. The craft then makes use of its thrusters to input a unexpectedly decaying orbit, sooner or later diving into Earth’s setting, incinerating and destroying the particles.

You clearly can’t see it while you gaze up at the evening sky, however Earth has numerous junk floating round in orbit. There are a wide variety of the explanation why particles finally ends up orbiting Earth and lots of of the gadgets are discarded items of alternative spacecraft or long-dead satellites which haven’t any use to somebody. Sometimes those gadgets crash into each and every different and create much more, smaller items of space junk which is able to harm energetic satellites or even pose a threat to astronauts.


The harpoon device that Airbus has constructed is supposed to snag a few of the biggest items of rubbish in space. It used to be constructed with the final objective of taking pictures the Envisat, an Earth remark platform which spontaneously died again in 2012 and has been floating in orbit ever since. The just about nine-ton satellite tv for pc would pose a major problem to any space junk cleanup effort, however Airbus is hopeful its harpoon is up for the job.

The first actual check of the new era will happen in April, when the RemoveDebris venture exams a few particles elimination choices after it reaches orbit. The harpoon will be a smaller model of the actual deal, intended to gauge its usefulness. Ideally, if all is going smartly, it gained’t be lengthy prior to the greater harpoon is put into carrier and will start clearing Earth’s orbit of pesky clutter.

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