Japan Launches Space Junk Collector Vessel ‘Kounotori’ into Orbit to Clear Clutter (Download PDF)

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Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are experimenting with a tether to pull junk out of orbit around Earth. Clearing up tons of space clutter includes cast-off equipment from old satellites and pieces of rocket.

HTV-6 Kounotori, japan spacecraft

HTV-6 Kounotori, Japan Spacecraft

HTV-6 Kounotori, japan spacecraft

Highlights

  • Contains nearly 5 tons of food, water and other supplies, including new lithium-ion batteries for the station’s solar power system.
  • International Space Station (ISS), carrying a ‘space junk’ collector that was made with the help of a fishnet company.
  • Blasted off from the southern island of Tanegashima attached to an H-IIB rocket.
  • Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is experimenting with a tether to pull junk out of orbit around Earth.
  • Clearing up tons of space clutter includes cast-off equipment from old satellites and pieces of rocket.
  • Estimated to be more than 100 million pieces in orbit, posing a growing threat to future space exploration.
  • JAXA worked on the project with Japanese fishnet manufacturer Nitto Seimo to develop the cord, which has been about 10 years in the making.
  • Length of the tether this time is 700 metre (2,300 feet), but eventually it’s going to need to be 5,000 to 10,000 metre-long to slow down the targeted space junk.
International Space Station carrying the vessel blasted off

International Space Station Carrying the Vessel Blasted off

International Space Station carrying the vessel blasted off

How It Works?

  • The vessel uses a so-called electrodynamic tether.
  • This is made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminum.
  • One end of the strip is attached to debris big enough to damage working equipment.
  • The electricity generated by the tether as it swings through the Earth’s magnetic field is expected to have a slowing effect on the space junk.
  • Electricity generated by the tether as it swings through the Earth’s magnetic field is expected to have a slowing effect on the space junk.
Make space safer for astronauts by get rid of space junk

Make Space Safer for Astronauts by Get Rid of Space Junk

Make space safer for astronauts by get rid of space junk

World of Space Junk

  • The first object, Sputnik One, was launched into space 53 years ago.
  • This has created a swarm of tens of millions of pieces of debris.
  • Debris circling the planet comes from old rockets, abandoned satellites and missile shrapnel.
  • Also includes a missing spatula, a lost glove and a stray toothbrush.
  • Bags of rubbish ejected into space by cosmonauts on board the Mir Space Station also still pose a risk.

Is Space Debris a Problem?

The main worry about space debris is possible collision with active or functioning satellites or spacecraft.

- Published/Last Modified on: December 11, 2016

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