Sunday, January 26, 2014

Japan to use net to trawl for space debris

The electrodynamic tether will be used as a way to help reduce the large amount of space junk in orbit.

Consisting of several hundred thousand fragments of satellites, rocket stages and other objects, space debris represents an increasingly worrying hazard for future space endeavors.

In the event of a collision, an object less than one centimeter in size could inflict significant damage to a spacecraft, while a collision with an object of 10cm or more could prove catastrophic. As the number of objects increases so too does the risk, with the eventual possibility of an orbit so filled with junk that further missions in to space would become almost impossible.

To help tackle the problem, Japan has come up with a special debris-catching net consisting of a 700m mesh of aluminum and steel wires. The device is designed to attract items of space junk as it orbits the Earth and has sensors that can pick up individual pieces.

Once it's filled up, the net would de-orbit and all the debris that it had collected would simply burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.