JAXA Develops Electrodynamic Tether to De-orbit Space Debris

jaxalogoJAXA will test a 300-meter (1,000-foot) long electrodynamic tether in space next month that is designed to reel in and de-orbit space debris.

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 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, who is working with JAXA on the project, told AFP.

The tether will be launched on Feb. 28 as a secondary payload aboard an H-2A rocket. The main goal is to extend the tether in orbit and observe the transfer of energy. Engineers will attempt to reel in space debris with future tethers.

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