The experiment to test the mechanism of the cable, which should have been used to capture debris from orbit, failed. Now scientists are working on troubleshooting.
The experimental space garbage “collector” failed during the first orbital testing.
The system was developed by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and the fish company for the production of networks. They were supposed to deploy a 700 meter (2300 ft) tether from a vehicle that was returning to Earth. But the attempt was unsuccessful.
Space junk is a growing problem in low earth orbit. From the very beginning of the era of space exploration, small remnants of paint and entire satellites accumulated, creating a whole mountain of more than 100 million individual pieces (tens of thousands less than 10 cm), which envelop our planet like a cloud.
Although the space is huge, and the likelihood that astronauts or vehicles crash into floating debris is not so great, but every year the problem grows and in the future it will become a common occurrence. It will be so dangerous that we can not run anything else.
Of course, the collision does not threaten anyone's life (for now), but the satellites are in danger. After all, small parts break through the lining of solar cells at the station at a speed greater than the flight of a bullet on Earth. For 16 years, the outpost had to change jobs in order not to crash into the wreckage (ground-based radars helped with this). Therefore, JAXA also hoped to test the electrodynamic grip attached to the unmanned automatic cargo ship H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) or “Kounotori-6”. His goal was to deploy a leash that would capture large debris of space debris and pull them along with the ship to Earth, burning everything in the atmosphere.
The robotic ship arrived on the ISS in December. He brought the necessary supplies, after which he was filled with garbage crew. He started on Earth on January 27 and should be safely burned in the atmosphere at the beginning of February.
But before that, he had to use capture to test the system. It turned out that stainless steel and aluminum cable could not even detach from the launching block and did not free themselves from the ship replenished with cargo.
JAXA scientists say they will continue to work on the mechanism. But they have quite a bit of time to fix it.