Japan launches Space Junk Collector

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) recently launched an unmanned cargo ship bound for the International Space Station (ISS). Along for the ride was the vessel Kounotori 6, which is embedded with a 2,300-foot electrodynamic tether (EDT) meant to swat space junk out of orbit.

“To preserve the outer space environment for future generations, it is necessary to remove existing large pieces of space debris,” according to JAXA.

Uses fishnet plaiting technology developed by local fishnet manufacturer Nitto Seimo, the length of the cord is currently about 2,300 feet, but eventually must extend to between 16,400 and 32,800 feet long “to slow down the targeted space junk”.

The idea is that one end of the cord will be attached to debris; the electricity generated by the tether as it swings through Earth’s magnetic field is expected to have a slowing effect on the space junk, which should pull it into a lower and lower orbit. Eventually, the debris will enter Earth’s atmosphere, burning up long before it crashes on land or into the sea.