University of Surrey

Watch a Harpoon Attached to a Satellite Spear a Piece of Space Debris

byVictor Tangermann
2. 16. 19
University of Surrey

The satellite still has one more trick up its sleeve.

Harpooning Space Debris

Junk floating around in Earth’s orbit is becoming a big problem. Bits of man-made debris can pose a big threat to satellites circling our planet. But a team of British engineers might have a clever solution.

The team of researchers from the University of Surrey used the RemoveDEBRIS satellite — a satellite specifically designed to eliminate space junk that launched on board a SpaceX Falcon rocket in April 2018 — to launch a harpoon at a (previously set up) piece of test debris at 20 meters a second (44 mph).

“Successful in space demonstration of the harpoon technology is a significant step towards solving the growing issue of space debris,” said Chris Burgess, Harpoon Lead Engineer at Airbus Defence and Space said in a press release.

Caught in a Web

The test is actually the RemoveDEBRIS satellite’s second trick: in September, it successfully deployed a spider-like web  that was meant to grab space junk out of the sky.


The team at the University of Surrey is now preparing for its third and final test: RemoveDEBRIS will inflate a sail that will slowly drag it into Earth’s atmosphere where it will burn up and be destroyed.

READ MORE: Space junk harpooned like whale in orbit-cleanup test [Associated Press]

More on RemoveDEBRIS: UK Researchers Just Deployed a Massive Net to Catch Space Debris

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