Japan Launches 'Space Junk' Collector To ISS

Using an H-IIB rocket, Japan launched a cargo ship carrying a "space junk" collector to the International Space Station (ISS). The system is based around an electrodynamic tether that can swing through Earth's magnetic field and slow down debris currently orbiting the planet.

As the junk slows, it'll fall into a lower orbit and eventually burn up in the atmosphere. An estimated 100 million pieces of debris are in orbit. Those pieces cause collisions each year and should be removed if at all possible.

Scientists with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) worked with Nitto Seimo, a fishnet company, to develop the tether cord. Development began 10 years ago.

This system is still being tested. A future trial will actually see the cord attach to a targeted object. By the mid-2020s, it could be common to have effective junk collection systems in place.

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, - Katsuya Suzuki, Nitto Seimo