Fate of Space Tether Mission to collect space debris uncertain

Space is a dangerous place and space exploration in the last half century has increased space junk to dangerous levels. Often rocket launches have to be postponed to avoid crashing into unwanted space junk. Space contains more than 100 million pieces of space junk which are hurtling around the planet at blinding speeds. The Japan Space Agency has designed a ‘Space Junk’ collector to pull out space junk. However, according to the latest news, the program has run into trouble and has once again proved to be a huge embarrassment for Tokyo.

The space junk collector is a 700-meter long tether which was to extend from the Japanese cargo ship which was launched to the ISS in December 2016. Space is littered with old and redundant satellites, rocket components. The tether plans to latch on to the bigger pieces slow it down and shift it to low earth orbit where it will decay and burn up in the atmosphere harmlessly.

The tether is the brainchild of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and is composed of thin wires of stainless steel and aluminum some 700 meters long. However, scientists at the JAXA now say that they are not sure if the hardware has been deployed correctly or not.

Scientists are trying their best to remedy the situation before the cargo ship which is expected to re-enter the atmosphere on Saturday. However, before its fiery reentry, the ship was supposed to release the tether to check out the feasibility of the idea.

JAXA has been facing a series of failed missions. Two weeks ago it had to abort a mini rocket launch intended to send a nanosatellite to the orbit. The mission was aborted after the spacecraft stopped sending data a few moments after blast off. Another expensive satellite meant to investigate X-rays emanating from black holes and galaxy clusters was abandoned after contact was launched.

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