Space Junk Collector Launched by Japan

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Representative Image of Space Junk; Flickr

Cosmic junk in the space has been a matter of worry for all countries. Half a century of space exploration has created more than 500,000 pieces of ‘space junk’. Japan launched an experimental space scavenger into the orbit, which will study the possibility of getting rid of this junk.

NASA had tracked 500,000 pieces of junk circling our planet which excluded the millions of tiny fragments of old satellites that evade the radars.

These tiny pieces travel at a speed of 17,500 mph. Imagine the damage it causes to satellites, spacecrafts and the inhabited International Space Station (ISS).

To counteract the growing danger of a major collision, number of companies and space agencies had proposed ways to get rid of this unwanted junk in space.

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Japan’s space agency (JAXA) successfully launched Kounotori 6 (HTV-6) spacecraft on Friday, 9th December 2016. This spacecraft has a large magnetic tether which is made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium. The space junk will be redirected towards Earth’s orbit.

“Electrodynamic tether (EDT), an advanced high-efficiency propulsion system, is a promising candidate to deorbit the debris objects at low cost,” JAXA said.

JAXA engineers have designed a new technology called Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE). They have developed this technology in collaboration with a Japanese fishing net company, Nitto Seimo Co.

The KITE will see a 20-kilogram weight extended into space attached to a 700-meter tether. The main objective is to study the behaviour and movement of the mass that is tethered.

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In reality, the tether will slow down the junk which will bring it to Earth’s atmosphere where it will burn up.

“The length of the tether this time is 700 meters, but eventually it’s going to need to be 5,000 to 10,000 meters long to slow down the targeted space junk,” Nitto Seimo’s engineer Katsuya Suzuki told AFP.

“If we are successful in this trial, the next step will be another test attaching one tip of the tether to a targeted object,” a JAXA spokesman told AFP.