The spacecraft features a 1.5 meter arrow from which a piece of satellite panel was hanged, simulating a junk. The harpoon – designed at Stevenage at the base of Airbus Space and Defense – was fired at 20 meters per second, penetrating the target and demonstrating the ability of a harpoon to capture debris. The test is the third successful experiment involving the project.
Previously, RemoveDEBRIS used its integrated network to capture other debris, and then used its state-of-the-art LiDAR vision navigation system and vision navigation system to identify space debris.
The team is now preparing for its latest experiment, scheduled for next month, which will see the satellite inflate a sail that will drag it into the atmosphere of the Earth, destroying it at the same time.
Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Center at the University of Surrey, who coordinated the project, said: "This is the most demanding experience of RemoveDEBRIS and the fact that it is a success is a testament to everyone's success.
The project provided solid evidence of what could be achieved with the power of collaboration, he added.
Chris Burgess, chief harpoon engineer at Airbus Defense and Space, said: "A successful demonstration of harpoon technology in space is an important step towards solving the growing problem of space debris.
Chris Skidmore, MP and Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, said: "Space debris can have serious consequences for our communication systems. they strike satellites.
"This inspiring project shows that British experts are providing answers to this potential problem using a harpoon, a tool that people have used throughout its history.
"This mission is a striking example of the United Kingdom's expertise in space technologies, and by collaborating, our world-class universities and innovative companies can contribute immensely to the government's goals of to create a highly qualified economy through our modern industrial strategy. "
RemoveDEBRIS was designed, built and manufactured by a consortium of leading space companies and research institutes from Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and South Africa.
The satellite is in orbit by engineers at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in Guildford, UK. The project is co-financed by the European Union.
The US Space Surveillance Network monitors 40,000 objects and estimates that there are more than 7,600 tonnes of "space debris" in and around Earth's orbit.
Some travel at speeds approaching 30,000 km / h, faster than a fastball, and pose a potential risk to other satellites that the world relies on for telecommunications and other technologies.
Scientists believe that satellites return to Earth at a rate of one a week.
The Chinese experimental space station Tiangong-1 fell to Earth on April 1 of last year, mainly south of the Pacific Ocean.
Nevertheless, Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Center, told the Space.com website: "You have to keep a close eye on some important things in low Earth orbit."
A polar Indian satellite launcher rocket (PSLV), which sent a remote sensing satellite into space in April 2012, appears to be the next big object to crash on Earth.
The issue of dangerous space debris was highlighted in the Oscar-winning 2012 film Gravity starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.
Their spaceship is damaged by debris and the character of Sandra Bullock has to find a way to return to Earth.