Part 2 of 2 Parts (Please read Part 1 first)
The RD satellite was launched to the ISS last April. It was then deployed from the Japanese Kibo lab module on June 20th. The Director of the Surrey Space Center explained how the RD satellite works. "The net, as a way to capture debris, is a very flexible option because even if the debris is spinning, or has got an irregular shape, to capture it with a net is relatively low-risk compared to … going with a robotic arm, because if the debris is spinning very fast, and you try to capture it with a robotic arm, then clearly there is a problem. In addition, if you are to capture the debris with a robotic arm or a gripper, you need somewhere you can grab hold of your piece of debris without breaking off just a chunk of it."
The experiment designed to capture a cubesat with the net is scheduled for September of 2018. The test of the navigation system is scheduled for October of 2018. Following the completion of these tests, the RD satellite will deploy a dragsail. The dragsail will use the thin atmosphere to slow down the satellite which will descend to lower and lower obits and eventually burn up. The sail will be used to deobit the RD satellite within eight weeks. Normally a satellite at this altitude in low-Earth orbit would take about two and a half years to deorbit.
The RD satellite will test a variety of possible technologies to make orbital debris clearance as simple and cheap as possible. If the tests are successful, more satellite like the RD satellite could be deployed to the ISS to help remove space debris that threatens the station and other satellites.
Nanoracks LLC is the company that developed the Kaber system in the Kibo lab modules for launching the increasing number of small satellites that are being sent to the ISS. A representative of Nanoracks said, "It's wonderful to have helped facilitate this ground-breaking mission. RemoveDebris is demonstrating some extremely exciting active debris removal technologies that could have a major impact to how we manage space debris moving forward. This program is an excellent example of how small satellite capabilities have grown and how the space station can serve as a platform for missions of this scale. We're all excited to see the results of the experiments and impact this project may have in the coming years."
There are other space junk removal technology experiments being conducted at the ISS. One of these is aimed at detecting pieces of space junk. It is called the Space Debris Sensor (SDS). It is a calibrated impact sensor that is mounted on the exterior of the ISS. It is designed to monitor impacts of small pieces of space debris. Improved monitoring will aid in space debris removal. The ability to reduce the amount of space debris in low-Earth orbit will allow the launch of many more satellites to low-Earth orbit.