Weightless net testing for derelict satellite capture


The use of deployable nets to catch derelict satellites as they tumble in space was explored recently in weightlessness. The experiment was carried out during a week-long visit to the National Research Council of Canada’s site on Ottawa airport in February 2015, including two days of parabolic flights on their Falcon 20 aircraft.

The first part of the video shows a nylon net being fired from a compressed air gun between two researchers, shown in real time. The net entangled a scale-model satellite. The next part shows slowed-down high-speed HD footage from cameras placed both ahead of (left) and behind (right). This footage will be used to complete computer simulations (the output is seen in the final part of the video), which will help to develop full-sized nets for space debris removal, potentially starting with ESA’s e.Deorbit mission.

The National Research Council of Canada parabolic flights were contracted by Poland’s SKA Polska company, overseeing the research project for ESA. Other members of the project team include Italy’s STAM company and Poland’s OptiNav company.

Read more on the ESA website:

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  1. Not impressed. At short range, no problem, but over longer ranges, the net will collapse in on itself before it gets close to the target. You'd have to add some intelligence to have it burst open just before contact.  Also is the question of tethering it to the host satellite.  There's no point in netting an object if it's not tethered, and that's going to change the dynamics of the net trajectory in null gravity.  All this did was show you could toss a net around an object at extremely short range in 0G and that's no different then hitting a stationary target in 1G.

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