Space junk is a growing problem. But the Japanese space agency JAXA has a plan, including a 700-meter cable, capable of raking up large debris from orbit.
JAXA will soon experience a new technology that uses a half-mile cable to grab space junk.
The proposed technology (first announced in 2014) will include a spacecraft with a 700-meter (2296 ft) electrodynamic tether (EDT), which it will send to the wreckage. The end of the cable will hook the garbage, and the device will drag it into the earth's incinerator atmosphere (because of which the device will also burn).
The prototype is called Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE). He arrived at the International Space Station on December 12. This system will allow engineers to test the mechanisms that drive the cable in space conditions.
JAXA released a brief description of the tether technology, and also created a video illustrating the details of the tether and spacecraft. Unfortunately for us, everything is in Japanese.
Space junk is becoming a serious problem for space agencies and private companies. Even small debris at high speeds can push satellites and human environment (ISS). Collision with debris may have caused the loss of a Japanese scientific satellite earlier this year. In 2013, more than 500,000 pieces of garbage were tracked by space agencies. This includes more than 21,000 pieces larger than 4 inches (10 cm) and half a million pieces of 0.4 inches (1 cm).
Agencies are not only concerned about the risk of collision, but also splitting large debris into small ones that are difficult to track.
The EDT spacecraft will be aimed at large pieces, ranging in size from a few hundred kilograms to several tons (400-4000 pounds).
There are various systems that allow operators to control the position of the cable relative to the debris and adjust the leash itself. After the clutch occurs, operators use optical cameras to direct it to the right place.
The actual use of the mission can occur in the 2020s. This was reported by a representative of the agency.
This is not the first time that a leash is offered as the main weapon against garbage. Web is also a popular choice.
“There are many different ways of cleaning the space that have been offered for many years,” written on the NASA website. “They include the use of lasers, electrodynamic or impulsive tethers, tugs, high-resistance devices and other exotic methods.”