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Deploy the Space Harpoon – TechCrunch



Beware, starwhales. There's a new weapon for the interstellar dweller that threatens you with your crushed on Earth Giga Flippern. This small format version may only be suitable for removing dangerous orbital debris, but over time it will puncture your hypercarbon hides and irredeemable sun hearts.

Literally a space speargun. (Source: Airbus)

However, it would be irresponsible of me to speculate about what is possible with technology today, so that a summary of the current capabilities of the harpoon is sufficient.

The Space Harpoon is part of the RemoveDEBRIS project, a multi-agency European company dedicated to the development and testing of methods for reducing space debris. There are thousands of little pieces that know what's clogged in our orbital neighborhood and their size ranges from microscopic to potentially catastrophic.

There are so many ways to reduce these rogue items as there are sizes and shapes of space junk; It may be enough to bring a small amount of laser light towards orbital decay, but larger items require more practical solutions. And apparently everything nautical in origin: RemoveDEBRIS has a net, a sail and a harpoon. No cannon?

You can see how the three items are supposed to work:

The harpoon is intended for larger purposes, for example, full-size satellites that have worked flawed and drift off their orbit. A simple mass driver might push them towards the earth, but trapping and controlling the descent is a controlled technique.

While an ordinary harpoon is simply thrown by people like Queequeg or Dagoo, it is slightly different in space. Unfortunately, it is impractical to prepare a harpooner for EVA missions. The whole thing has to be automated. Fortunately, the organization also tests computer vision systems that can identify and track goals. From there it is only a question of firing the harpoon and curling, as the satellite demonstrated it today.

This small item, designed by Airbus, resembles a switching harpoon that has a piece that pops out once it pierces the target. Obviously, it is a disposable device, but it's not particularly large, and several could be deployed on different interceptor orbit simultaneously. After rolling up, a drag sail (see video above) can be used to speed up re-entry. The whole thing could be done with little or no propellant, which greatly simplifies the operation.

Obviously, this is not yet a threat to the Starwale. But we will get there. We'll get those monsters good one day.


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