A UK-built satellite will test different approaches to removing space junk from the Earth’s orbit.

The RemoveDEBRIS mission was launched into space on Monday 2nd April from the International Space Station in Florida.

The satellite mission is led by the University of Surrey and was built by Surrey Satellite Technology.

“Space debris is one of the key challenges we face and it’s great to see a British university and some of our innovative space companies leading the way on the search for solutions,” said Science Minister Sam Gyimah.

“It’s also a fantastic example of the unique expertise found in the UK’s growing space sector and the value that it adds to international projects.

“The UK Space Agency continues to work closely with industry to develop new technologies and infrastructure to grow our share of the global space market as part of the Government’s industrial strategy.”

The satellite will attempt to capture simulated space debris using a net and a harpoon and test advanced cameras and radar systems. Once those experiments are complete, it will unfurl a drag sail to bring itself and the debris out of orbit, where it will burn up as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

The UK Space Agency says that there are thousands of pieces of space debris circulating earth, some of which are travelling faster than a speeding bullet – and that this poses a risk to valuable satellites and the International Space Station.

“It is important to remember that a few significant collisions have already happened. Therefore, to maintain the safety of current and future space assets, the issue of the control and reduction of the space debris has to be addressed," said Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey.

“We believe the technologies we will be demonstrating with RemoveDEBRIS could provide feasible answers to the space junk problem – answers that could be used on future space missions in the very near future.”