A satellite designed by scientists in the UK to clean up space junk orbiting the Earth has been successfully launched for an experimental mission to test techniques for tracking and capturing debris.
The RemoveDebris satellite was launched aboard a SpaceX rocket from the Kennedy Space Center on Monday and is on course for the International Space Station.
It is expected to be released by astronauts to begin its experimental clean-up mission in May.
The device is equipped with a net for capturing space litter and a harpoon designed to spear and haul in bigger objects.
Scientists say it will showcase technologies that could be used to clean up an estimated 7,600 tonnes of junk orbiting the Earth, ranging from old spacecraft to flecks of paint.
“It is important to remember that a few significant collisions have already happened. Therefore, to maintain the safety of current and future space assets, the issue of the control and reduction of the space debris has to be addressed,” said Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of the Surrey Space Centre, which is leading the project.
“We believe the technologies we will be demonstrating with RemoveDebris could provide feasible answers to the space junk problem — answers that could be used on future space missions in the very near future.”