Airbus Defence and Space's preliminary design for a space harpoon system (Image: Airbus Defence and Space)
Artist's concept of a derelict satellite being reeled in after being harpooned by the e.DeOrbit satellite (Image: Airbus Defence and Space)
A tethered harpoon system to capture derelict satellites is being studied for ESA's e.DeOrbit mission (Image: Airbus Defence and Space)
In 2021, as part of its Clean Space Initiative, ESA plans to launch the e.DeOrbit mission. The aim of this mission is to clean up the important polar orbits between altitudes of 800 to 1,000 km (500 to 625 mil) that face the prospect of becoming unusable due to the increasing buildup of space debris. The ESA has now announced plans to examine the potential for the mission to use space harpoons to capture large items, such as derelict satellites and the upper stages of rockets.
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