Japanese Space Junk Removal Project Fails In Orbit

Posted by Core Mini Bins on March 1st, 2017

An experiment was recently conducted in order to test the potential of a tether mechanism in space. The idea with this experiment was to see if the tether could be used to help remove space junk from our orbit. Had the plan been a successful one, it would have given the world a powerful tool for removing debris and other undesirable objects from space.

Although many problems occurred with the experiment, this failure is worth exploring in greater detail because of what it means for future endeavours.

As one can imagine, scientists are already hard at work on addressing the glitch that caused this Japanese space removal project to fail. Unfortunately, the project comes with something of a time crunch. If scientists can’t find a solution to this problem in short order, they will run out of time.

The experimental space junk “collector” regrettably experienced a glitch during its initial orbital test. Designed by the Japanese space agency JAXA, as well as a fishing net company, the system was designed to use a 700-meter tether from a space station resupply vehicle as the vehicle was making its way back to earth. In low-earth orbit, space debris continue to represent a serious problem. The debris can be as small as a speck, but it can just as easily be as large as whole satellites, rocket boosters, and more.

Although the odds of an accident occurring due to the debris are low, it still something of a growing concern. Scientists have begun to look for solutions to the problem. This brings to the point in which JAXA put together what it hoped would be a viable solution. Although no human lives have been lost due to these debris, satellites and other items have been struck at different times.

Known as Kounotori-6, the Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments wanted to test the technology behind sending the cable into space. KITE would send the tether out to gather large pieces of debris. The debris would then be brought back to earth, where it would burn up in the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, during that initial test, something went wrong. The stainless steel and aluminum cable didn’t even leave the starting blocks. In other words, nothing was released from the supply ship.

This is something that scientists are naturally eager to address. JAXA scientists have made it clear that they will continue to send commands to the mechanism. However, they must also acknowledge the sad fact that they do not have a lot of time in which to get the answers they need if the endeavour is going to be successful.

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Core Mini Bins
Joined: July 27th, 2016
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