Saturday, December 10, 2016

After 10 Years of Development, Japan Launches Space Junk Collector Into Orbit

On Friday night Japan launched an unmanned spaceship containing a ‘space junk collector’ bound for the International Space Station (ISS). The "Kounotori" (stork in Japanese) was attached to an H-IIB rocket and departed from Tanegashima Island in the Kagoshima Prefecture.

The cargo ship will also bring water and batteries to the astronauts aboard the ISS. With the help of Japanese fishing-net manufacturer Nitto Seimo, scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have developed a tether designed to pull debris from Earth’s orbit, cleaning an estimated 100 million pieces of rockets, equipment, and dead satellites that have been floating around since the Soviet Union first launched Sputnik in 1957.

Much of the space trash moves around the Earth at a speed of 17,500 mph, causing the potential for countless collisions.

The electrodynamic wire, made from aluminum and stainless steel, and as long as six football fields, is designed to catch debris that can destroy orbiting spacecraft. Scientists say the detritus will be pulled into a lower orbit by the electricity generated by the tether, where it will enter Earth’s atmosphere, burning to ash in the process.

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