The SpaceX Dragon Truck, which was launched into Earth orbit on April 2 with 2.6 tons of cargo for the crew of the International Space Station, among other things, carries with it one very interesting spacecraft, a prototype of a space scavenger designed by a group of European engineers.  At the moment, there are several thousand different satellites in orbit, as well as hundreds of thousands of different pieces of garbage left after several thousand rocket launches over the past few decades. Sooner or later we will have to get rid of all this “good”, otherwise we risk to remain without space at all.
The only solution to this problem will be the cleaning of the orbit from space junk. But it is much easier to say than to do. A bunch of various organizations, including American, Chinese and Japanese space agencies, are developing their own prototypes of space cleaners and garbage collectors. This Monday, one of these cleaners went to the ISS. It was designed by British engineers from the Space Center of the University of Surrey and is called RemoveDEBRIS. In the next few weeks, the device will be tested for its capabilities.
Assembling the space scavenger RemoveDEBRIS
The most interesting is that the space cleaner is equipped with several different systems, the effectiveness of which is to be checked. Inside the device there are several tiny cobsat that will act as targets. The main satellite will catch them using a network and a harpoon.
Both of these devices were chosen as the most effective methods of dealing with space debris, but had never been tested before. A real test of their effectiveness in the field will allow gathering information that will be useful for developing future missions for cleaning the planet's orbit.
After the experiment is over, the device RemoveDEBRIS will release a “brake sail” that will tighten it back into the atmosphere of the planet where it will burn. If the mission is successful, as the developers of the device expect, then RemoveDEBRIS can start the future missions that will make our orbit a bit safer.