Features

Published: Wednesday January 22, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday January 22, 2014 MYT 7:29:25 AM

Hauling in all that space junk

JAPANESE space scientists are set to try out a tether they hope will help pull junk out of orbit around Earth, clearing up tonnes of planetary clutter.

Researchers at The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency 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 a 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, on Thursday.

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

“We have two main objectives in the trial next month,” he said. “First, to extend a 300m (1,000ft) 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 spokesman for the agency said it 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 800-1,400km (500-900 miles) 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 gear because of the huge damage they can cause. – AFP

Tags / Keywords: Science & Technology, space junk, electrodynamic tether, Japan

advertisement

  1. Australia the new casino hotspot
  2. Wanted by Interpol — sex blogger who has gone missing
  3. Two satay eateries in town reel in the biggest crowd
  4. Cat-astrophe: Vietnam’s taste for cat leaves pets in peril
  5. Brains for progress: Scientists are changing the world
  6. Lagunita and Tamchen: Lost Mayan cities back on the map!
  7. Giant of British cinema: Richard Attenborough (1923–2014)
  8. The one with all the outfits at this year’s Emmys
  9. Fulbright scholar’s documentary selected for five US film fests
  10. Unbearable slaughter

advertisement

advertisement