With over 20,000 pieces (larger than the size of a softball) of space debris floating around outer space, according to a 2013 report from NASA, European company Airbus has been at work developing a “space harpoon” to help with clean-up efforts.

At roughly 3-feet long, the high-tech harpoon will be tethered to a larger spacecraft capable of locating the space junk. Once located, the harpoon will be hurled at the items at approximately 82 feet per second.

"The harpoon goes through these panels like a hot knife through butter," advanced project engineer Alastair Wayman said. "Once the tip is inside, it has a set of barbs that open up and stop the harpoon from coming back out. We'd then de-tumble the satellite with a tether on the other end."

Being designed specifically to help capture the Envisat Earth observation platform — which is considered the world’s largest civilian Earth observation platform and thus capable of causing the most damage — launched by the European Space Agency in 2002, the harpoon has been under development for some time now. However, as concerns mount for larger and larger debris coming into contact with and subsequently damaging important satellites, Airbus is on the verge of finalizing the harpoon design.

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