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Space Japan Technology

Space Junk-Fighting Cable Fails To Deploy ( 55

New Scientist reports: It's a rubbish start for the world's first space clean-up experiment. A cable designed to drag space junk out of orbit has failed to deploy from a Japanese spacecraft... A 700-metre-long metal cable was fitted to an unmanned spacecraft called Kounotori 6, which was on its way back to Earth after delivering supplies to the International Space Station. The cable was meant to unfurl from the spacecraft, at which point an electric current would pass along its length. The idea was that the current would interact with the Earth's magnetic field, creating a drag that pulled the spacecraft out of orbit. The spacecraft would then tumble into our atmosphere and become incinerated... However, Kounotori 6 was unable to release the cable to test its junk-removing potential, and JAXA could not fix the glitch before the spacecraft returned to Earth's atmosphere this morning... "Releasing a cable may seem simple, but nothing in space is simple," says Sean Tuttle at the University of New South Wales in Australia... The test's failure should be seen as a setback rather than a nail in the coffin for junk-removing cables, Tuttle says.
rickyslashdot writes: Because of the simplicity of this system, it is bound to be tested again -- hopefully sooner than later... This process is inherently safer than using rocket engines (to be attached to the junk), and is much less of a 'mass-to-orbit' cost, since it only requires a grappling system, and a spool of wire/cable. Hopefully, there will be a follow-up / re-try in the near future for this orbital debris clean-up process.
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Space Junk-Fighting Cable Fails To Deploy

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  • So... Basically, they just added more junk.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, the cable never was release and the ship returned back to the earths atmosphere. Next time someone needs to just put on a space suit and walk out there to "unfurl" it.

    • No, not more space junk.

      The experiment was deployed on a capsule full of sewage and trash, and is going to be incinerated on re-entry.

      See []

    • When it says "low earth orbit" you can assume that it will not contribute to space junk. Low earth orbits intersect the thin edge of the atmosphere and they thus degrade on their own due to atmospheric drag. Higher orbits are the problem ones.
    • No, someone called "freeze128" failed to RTFA, but remembered to log on to watch himself publish his (or her) reading inability for everyone to see.

      Well, at lest you're not an AC.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Every summary of this story I have seen completely misunderstands what this technology is for.

    This is NOT intended to deal with the problem of existing space junk. This is a cheap/light widget you can add to FUTURE satellites which will allow them to de-orbit in a timely fashion, thus reducing future space junk.

    It should also be noted that the Kounotori 6 spacecraft was already on a decaying orbit when the cable was meant to deploy, so no additional space junk was created by the failure.

  • That's the only conclusion I can draw by the way space designers keep turning to them no matter how often they bollux things up. Tethers must be the astronautical equivalent of an abusive boyfriend.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.