Experts to test tether to clear up space junk

2014-01-16 12:01
Rocket launch. (AP, file)

Rocket launch. (AP, file)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tokyo - Japanese space scientists are set to trial a tether they hope will help pull junk out of orbit around Earth, clearing up tons of planetary clutter, they said on 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.

Orbiting rubbish

Nohmi said a satellite developed by the university is expected to be launched into space on 28 February, with the tether aboard.

"We have two main objectives in the trial next month," he said. "First, to extend a 300m tether in orbit and secondly to observe the transfer of electricity."

The actual reeling in of orbiting rubbish will be the objective of future experiments, he said. A spokesperson for JAXA said the agency also plans to conduct its own trial on a tether in 2015.

More than 20 000 bits of cast off equipment, including old satellites, pieces of rocket and other fragments are uselessly orbiting the Earth in a band 800km - 1 400km from the surface of the planet at terrific speed.

Their presence causes problems for space scientists who have to try to prevent them colliding with functioning kit because of the huge damage they can cause.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    space
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

UK expert: Boks ‘have KO game’
Ireland hold on to down Italy
As it happened: Ireland 16-9 Italy
All Blacks sympathise with England
Traffic Alerts

It is time to focus on your daily rhythm. Are you putting too much attention on future projects and neglecting the day to more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.