There is an estimated one hundred million pieces of space junk floating around our planet.
Now a new vessel is on its way to put a stop to this – a ‘space junk’ collector made with the help of a fishnet company.
A rocket bound for the International Space Station carrying the vessel blasted off from the southern island of Tanegashima at around 10:30 pm local time (13:30 GMT).
Since the Soviet-launched Sputnik satellite in 1957, decades of space exploration has produced a hazardous belt of orbiting debris.
Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are now experimenting with a tether to pull junk out of orbit around Earth.
This will clear up tonnes of space clutter including cast-off equipment from old satellites and pieces of rocket.
The vessel uses a so-called electrodynamic tether, which is made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium.
One end of the strip will be attached to debris big enough to damage 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.
This 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.
JAXA worked on the project with Japanese fishnet manufacturer Nitto Seimo to develop the cord, which has been about 10 years in the making.
‘The tether uses our fishnet plaiting technology, but it was really tough to intertwine the very thin materials,’ company engineer Katsuya Suzuki told AFP.
‘The length of the tether this time is 700 metre (2,300 feet), but eventually it’s going to need to be 5,000 to 10,000 metre-long to slow down the targeted space junk,’ he added.
Previous experiments using a tether have been done in recent years.
A spokesman for the space agency said it hopes to put the junk collection system into more regular use by the middle of the next decade.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk