A specialist missions system engineer, Dr Jaime Reed, from local space firm Astrium has invented a harpoon to capture junk orbiting the earth in space and then pull it into the atmosphere where it will burn up. The harpoon is gas-propelled and Stephen McPartland, Member of Parliament for Stevenage, tested out the harpoon which will be able to remove old rockets and satellites.
Stephen said, "This is another example of Stevenage leading the way and clearly illustrates we have some of the best scientists in the world. Astrium is amongst one of the most high tech and advanced companies on the planet and have been using their expertise to reach out into space for many years. The Space Industry is big business for the UK and is growing at almost 10% a year due to the amazing innovations of companies such as Astrium who are leading the world. I was proud to be given the opportunity to test fire the harpoon and amazed that this technology will be used to help clean up old satellites and space debris which pose a danger to future missions. We are all working hard to make our planet a greener place and Astrium is now helping us clear up the mess we have left behind in space too."
Jaime's idea works by using a satellite loaded with five to ten harpoons that detects space debris using laser and tracking systems. A harpoon is then fired, secures the object which may be over a tonne, and finally detaches a small sub-satellite which pulls it into earth's atmosphere where it breaks up.