NanoRacks-Remove Debris (NanoRacks-Remove Debris) - 10.04.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
NanoRacks-Remove Debris demonstrates an approach to reducing the risks presented by space debris or "space junk". Collisions in space may have serious consequences, but research has shown that removing the largest debris significantly reduces the chance of collisions. NanoRacks-Remove Debris demonstrates using a 3D camera to map location and speed of debris and deploying a net to capture and de-orbit simulated debris up to 1m in size. Analysis of video of the demonstration runs back on Earth increases understanding of debris that needs removal and how best to do so.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Guglielmo Aglietti, Ph.D., CEng, FRAeS., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: NanoRacks Remove Satt

Principal Investigator(s)
Guglielmo Aglietti, Ph.D., CEng, FRAeS., University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom

Alexandre Pollini, M.S., Centre Suisse d’Electronique et Microtechnique SA (CSEM SA), Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Keyvan Kanani, Ph.D., Airbus Defence and Space, Toulouse, France
Thomas Chabot, M.S., Airbus Defence and Space, Toulouse, France
Daniel Tye, M.Sc., Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom
Thierry Salmon, Ariane Group, Bordeaux, France
Christopher Burgess, M. Eng., Airbus Limited, Stevenage, United Kingdom
Herman Steyn, Ph.D., University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa
François Chaumette, Ph.D., Inria, Rennes, France
Ingo Retat, Ph.D., Airbus DS, Bremen, Germany

Surrey Space Centre – The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd , Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom
Astrium GmbH , Bremen, Germany
Astrium SAS , Suresnes, France
Astrium Limited , Stevenage, United Kingdom
Innovative Solutions in Space B.V. , Netherlands
Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique , Neuchatel, Switzerland
Inria, France
Stellenbosch University , Stellenbosch, South Africa

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
February 2018 - October 2018

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

^ back to top

Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Collisions in space can be very hard to predict and can also be very dangerous. Uncontrolled objects flying in space may cause problems for operational spacecraft. Two objects colliding in space may lead to a large amount of smaller very fast-moving debris. The worst-case scenario is that one collision leads to another and eventually all of the spacecraft relied on for internet connection, email, global positioning system (GPS) navigation and the use of mobile phones are affected.
  • Research shows that removing the largest objects can significantly reduce the chance of collisions. The purpose of NanoRacks-Remove Debris is to demonstrate different ways of dealing with space junk by identifying it and then physically moving it.
  • NanoRacks-Remove Debris has a three-dimensional (3D) camera capable of mapping objects, determining their size and how they move. This establishes the best way of handling the object.
  • The net demonstration deploys a net that captures simulated debris of up to 1 m in size. Once the net captures the target, both the target and the net de-orbit very quickly.
  • There is a harpoon demonstration, which is fired at a target. The harpoon has a tether, so the harpoon and tether flight in space may be assessed.
  • There is a de-orbit sail, or drag sail, that rapidly de-orbit the spacecraft.
  • Cameras film the demonstrations. The video is transmitted back to Earth where it is assessed.
  • Successful completion of NanoRacks-Remove Debris provides essential information for future removal of dangerous space junk.


A huge amount of debris has progressively been generated since the beginning of the space era. Most of the objects launched into space are still orbiting the Earth and today these objects and their by-products represent a threat both in space and on Earth. In space, debris can lead to collisions and potential damage to operational satellites, which may affect services on earth. For both issues, a credible solution has emerged over the recent years: actively removing large debris objects by capturing them and then either disposing of them by destructive re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere, or by disposing of them in graveyard orbits. The NanoRacks-Remove Debris investigation aims to demonstrate key technologies for Active Debris Removal in these three main domains by performing in-orbit demonstrations representative of an Active Debris Removal mission. The specific key technologies to be demonstrated as part of this project are: capture methods including a net and a harpoon; rapid de-orbiting technology demonstration via the drag sail; and proximity detection for rendezvous operations using vision-based navigation.
The technology demonstrations are conducted in orbit using a microsatellite test-bed. The microsatellite carries the Active Debris Removal payloads together with two deployable nanosatellites (CubeSats). Through a series of operations one of the nanosatellites is ejected, re-captured, and de-orbited. The other is the target of the visual based navigation experiment. The CubeSat, which is the target of the visual based navigation experiment, has aboard attitude and GPS knowledge transferred over a “spacecraft to spacecraft” radiofrequency (RF) link. Once the demonstrations are completed the micro satellite are rapidly de-orbited using a drag sail thereby demonstrating the key Active Debris Removal technologies.

^ back to top


Space Applications
This project helps make spaceflight safer for spacecraft and, in the case of those with crew, the people onboard. Results support future efforts to remove large, non-operational spacecraft to help prevent the space station from having to dodge debris.

Earth Applications
Collisions with space debris place at risk vital space-based services on Earth, such as navigation and cell phones. Reducing the risk of collisions in space protects these and many other vital services.

^ back to top


Operational Requirements and Protocols
The NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deploys from the International Space Station (ISS) via the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Airlock using the NanoRacks Kaber MicroSat Deployer. The ISS crew unpacks the NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite from the foam clamshell and installs it on the JEM Airlock Slide Table along with the NanoRacks Kaber MicroSat Deployer, JEM CLPA Adapter Plate (JCAP), and Slide Table Extension Plate (STEP) slide table adapter. Once transferred through the JEM Airlock, the satellite is grappled by the robotic arm interface outside of ISS and deployed using the Kaber MicroSat Deployer.

^ back to top

Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

^ back to top

Results/More Information

Information Pending

^ back to top

Related Websites
Surrey Space Centre: RemoveDEBRIS

^ back to top


NASA Image: ISS056E025305 - NanoRacks-Remove Debris Satellite launch view taken by Expedition 56 crew.

+ View Larger Image

NASA Image: ISS056E025331 - NanoRacks-Remove Debris Satellite launch view taken by Expedition 56 crew.
+ View Larger Image

NASA Image: ISS056E025387 - NanoRacks-Remove Debris Satellite launch view taken by Expedition 56 crew.
+ View Larger Image

NASA Image: ISS056E025423 - NanoRacks-Remove Debris Satellite launch view taken by Expedition 56 crew.

+ View Larger Image

NASA Image: ISS056E025425 - NanoRacks-Remove Debris Satellite launch view taken by Expedition 56 crew.

+ View Larger Image