Space is the life of Brian

Brian Stewart (back right) with his Surrey Space Centre colleagues with the project's main satellite.

A PIONEERING project involving a Shetlander now living in Guildford which aims to clean up debris from space has been successfully trialled.

Software engineer Brian Stewart, who is originally from Lerwick, is part of the RemoveDebris project at University of Surrey’s Space Centre.

It aims to explore methods of cleaning up man-made space junk orbiting earth, be it debris from old rockets or tools dropped by astronauts.

A RemoveDebris satellite was deployed from the International Space Station back in June and this week it was successfully trialled with the launch of a net.

The net and a harpoon are two ways in which the team aim to capture debris.

It is thought that around 7,500 tonnes of debris is floating in space, causing potential hazards to satellites and space craft.

RemoveDebris was designed, built and manufactured by a consortium of leading space companies and research institutions led by the Surrey Space Centre, with the project funded by the EU under their seventh framework.

Brian has particularly been involved in developing a system where a smaller satellite with a camera will be released by a main satellite to test navigation, while he also helped with general testing.

He studied maths at university and only eyed up the space industry after a careers fair in Edinburgh while he was an undergraduate.

Something “clicked” – and he ended up heading down to Surrey.

With a space centre proposed for Unst, Brian could be something of a role model for young Shetlanders looking to get into the industry.

“For pre-uni students, I would say look to go to a university that has an active space program such as down here in Surrey,” he advised.

“Then try to get some hands on experience with building a CubeSat, since this is very multi disciplinary and so you’ll learn a lot of skills, especially as teams are small so your role is larger. Space is really multi disciplinary in general so no matter what your interest, you’ll most likely be able to find some sort of role in the space industry.”

Brian said that the Unst proposal is “very exciting and definitely not something I was expecting a few years ago”.

“It would be really good if it works, and there could maybe even be courses set up at the Shetland college with work experience at the space centre,” he added.

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