SpaceX delivers UK experiments to International Space Station

Dragon spacecraft in a cleanroom at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California (SpaceX)

3 April 2018

Two British science experiments were aboard the SpaceX Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station which took off from Florida on 2 April.

The RemoveDEBRIS satellite will be deployed from the International Space Station and attempt to capture simulated space debris using a net and a harpoon, while also testing advanced cameras and radar systems. The mission is led by the University of Surrey using a Surrey Satellite Technology Limited built satellite with technology designed by Airbus. Once tests are complete, the satellite 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.

Also on board is the ESA run Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) experiment to study high-altitude lightning above severe thunder storms. These electrical discharges which can produce bright colours – sometimes called red sprites and blue jets – can alter the chemistry of the stratosphere and potentially affect the Earth’s climate. “This is the first time such a detailed and technologically-advanced measurement device will be flown into space to observe lightning,” said Dr Martin Fullekrug, lead UK scientist on the project based at the University of Bath. It’s hoped that data gathered from the Terma of Denmark measurement device will provide new knowledge about how lightning is initiated.