Harpoon successfully launches waste from space


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – A spear launched from a satellite has managed to capture a piece of fake space can, like a whale.

The British experiment is part of an effort to clean up debris in orbit, hundreds of kilometers from the Earth.

Guglielmo Aglietti of the University of Surrey said Friday that the steel-tipped harpoon hit home last Friday.

The harpoon – no bigger than a pen writes – has drilled an aluminum panel the size of a table tennis racket attached to the end of a satellite boom. The distance was only 5 feet, but the researchers were delighted.

A video shows the harpoon hitting the target and dropping it from its perch, and the harpoon cable entangling around the boom.

Aglietti said that a much larger harpoon would be needed to capture a real dead satellite, "Moby Dick style".

Thousands of ancient pieces of satellites and rockets and other debris encircling the Earth pose a potential threat to functioning spacecraft, including the International Space Station.

The same team used a net to capture a piece of space during a test last September.

And in December, they followed a tiny satellite ejected from the mother ship, using lasers.

"We are very happy because we have done three experiments and all three have worked so far," said Aglietti by phone from England.

All that remains is the 250 km high satellite to enter the atmosphere and burn up.

The experiment was launched at the space station last April and released from the station last June.



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