3 Oct 2012

'Harpoon' may be used to capture space junk

9:55 pm on 3 October 2012

Scientists in Britain have unveiled methods of dealing with the growing problem of space junk - the ever increasing amount of man-made debris orbiting Earth.

There are fears that thousands of old rockets and broken probes could collide with satellites in use for navigation communications and weather forecasting.

The BBC reports that one solution being tested by researchers involves spearing the debris, with a space harpoon, capturing the junk and sending it into the atmosphere where it is expected it will burn up.

Astrium UK, the largest space manufacturer in Europe, is also pursuing other ideas at its centres in France and Germany.

These concepts involve nets and robotic grappling devices. All systems have their pros and cons.

Harpoons could deal well with a satellite that is tumbling, for example, but the approach has its critics because of the fear it could actually add to our problems in space.