Japan scientists test tether to clear up space junk
Japanese space scientists are set to trial a tether they hope will help pull junk out of orbit around Earth, clearing up tonnes of planetary clutter, they said Thursday.
Researchers at The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have developed what they called an electrodynamic tether made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium.
The idea is that one end of the strip will be attached to one of the thousands of dead satellites or bits of rocket that are jamming up space and endangering working equipment.
The electricity generated by the tether as it swings through the Earth’s magnetic field is expected to have a slowing effect on the space junk, which should, scientists say, pull it into a lower and lower orbit.
Eventually the detritus will enter the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up harmlessly long before it has chance to crash to the planet’s surface.
"The experiment is specifically designed to contribute to developing a space debris cleaning method," said Masahiro Nohmi, associate professor at Kagawa University, who is working with JAXA on the project, told AFP.
Nohmi said a satellite developed by the university is expected to be launched into space on February 28, with the tether aboard.
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