UK-built junk-collecting satellite set for launch

A British designed and built satellite for collecting rubbish in space will be launched later this month in Russia. Developed by Guildford-based Surrey Satellite Technology, the satellite, called Snap, will use cameras to detect debris in orbit around the earth. It will then grip the debris and use retro-rockets to drop out of orbit and […]

A British designed and built satellite for collecting rubbish in space will be launched later this month in Russia.

Developed by Guildford-based Surrey Satellite Technology, the satellite, called Snap, will use cameras to detect debris in orbit around the earth. It will then grip the debris and use retro-rockets to drop out of orbit and burn up in the atmosphere. The spacecraft weighs just 6kg, a fraction of the weight normally expected for a satellite, and it cost just £100,000.

The satellite will be launched on 28 June from the Russian Plesetsk cosmodrome into a 650km-high sun-synchronous orbit on its first test run.

Snap is equipped with four cameras, an onboard miniature satellite navigation system, attitude control technology and its own propulsion system. It will test the cameras by making a rendezvous with the Chinese satellite, Tsinghua-1.

After more than 40 years of space exploration, the earth is surrounded by several thousand items of debris of various sizes – from paint flecks to spent rocket boosters – travelling at orbital speeds of up to 20,000mph.

A small piece of metal debris could deliver as much impact energy as a truck travelling at 100mph if it collided with a space shuttle or a space station.

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