ESA’s proposed e.Deorbit mission plans to demonstrate the retrieval and disposal of a derelict satellite from low-Earth orbit. The mission needs to capture a massive, drifting object left in an uncertain state, which may well be tumbling rapidly. Several capture mechanisms are being studied in parallel – including casting a net.
Polish company SKA Polska won this new ESA Member State’s first competitive contract to design a prototype net gun that could be tested in microgravity on a parabolic flight. Wojtek Gołebiowski of SKA Polska brought it along to the Industry Days of ESA’s Clean Space initiative – tasked with safeguarding both terrestrial and orbital environments – in May 2016. The net gun is comparatively low power (because it was designed for weightlessness)but here he demonstrates how it works on some low-flying drones. Results from firing the net, which is multi-coloured to make it easier to track by cameras, are being used to sharpen the fidelity of software models of net behaviour.