Space Junk Collector Japanese Experiment Failed

First Posted: Feb 08, 2017 03:00 AM EST

Space junk has emerged as one of the most unconventional yet dangerous threats to the proper functioning of orbiting satellites. It even poses life risk for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station or any other future manned mission to the Moon or Mars.

The space junk comprises of dead satellites, bits and pieces of incinerated rockets, metal fragments and much more. This debris is traveling at a speed of 17,000 miles per hour, which makes it a potentially dangerous weapon.

If the debris collides with a functioning satellite or any functional part of orbiting spacecraft or space station, then it may either destroy it or cause significant mechanical damage to its parts. Furthermore, the space litter can also compete for space with the satellites to be launched in the future, which can deter the quality of communication networks across the world, Mashable reported.

To clean the space, Japan launched an electromagnetic tether into space to attract and drag the debris from space. However, the Space Junk Collector Japanese Experiment called the Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiment (KITE) failed, after it hit a major technical snag.

The KITE was supposed to deploy a 70-meter electromagnetic tether, which can drag the space litter towards the Earth's atmosphere so that while re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, they will harmlessly get incinerated, CBS News reported .

The launched Space Junk Collector traveled in the Kounotori 6 HTV spacecraft, which delivered a cargo to the International Space Station in mid-December. It was docked there until Jan. 27 when the HTV spacecraft went on to accomplish its next goal. However, unfortunately, the experiment could not be successful as the electromagnetic tether did not open or unfurl.

Koichi Inoue, member of the KITE research team, said, "We believe the tether did not get released." He also added, "It is certainly disappointing that we ended the mission without completing one of the main objectives."

Even though the experiment failed, it has given hope to other space agencies. Now that the potential threats of the junk littered in space are realized, space agencies are trying to devise new ways to limit the amount of "littering" and finding ways to "clean up after themselves."

In one such effort, SpaceX is trying to manufacture rockets that are reusable. Once they are launched, they can be brought back to Earth and be used again in the future.

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