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A harpoon, the second of three engineering experiments for capturing space junk, was successfully fired last week.
A British satellite released from the International Space Station last year has successfully demonstrated a harpoon that could be used on future missions to clean up space debris, officials announced Friday.
The harpoon fired out of the RemoveDebris spacecraft Feb. 8, striking a target plate extended from the satellite on a 4.9-foot (1.5-meter) boom. The experiment was one of the main objectives of the $17 million (15.2-million-euro) RemoveDebris mission, conceived as a testbed for technologies engineers hope will allow future satellites to tidy up busy orbital traffic lanes by collecting dead satellites and rockets and driving them back into Earth’s atmosphere to burn up.
In a dramatic video released by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., the harpoon is seen catapulting out of the RemoveDebris spacecraft at a velocity of about 45 mph — 20 meters per second — and spearing its target. A cable attached to the harpoon kept the device from flying off and becoming its own piece of space junk.
The first experiment was a test of a net, tested successfully in September. The last of the three experiments, scheduled in a month, will test a sail designed to slow the satellite’s speed so that it gets de-orbited quickly.
I have embedded the video of the harpoon test below the fold.