Credit: JAXA

Japan tests innovative magnetic tether for slowing space junk

Japan has launched a cargo ship which will use a half mile- (700m)-long tether to remove some of the vast amount of debris from Earth’s orbit.

There is estimated to be more than 100 million pieces of space junk in orbit, including discarded equipment from old satellites, tools and bits of rocket. Those pieces of junk are dangerous enough on their own — but they can also generate thousands more smaller pieces of debris if they collide, creating even more risk to the space station and satellites orbiting the Earth.

Reels aboard the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kounotori 6 craft will deploy the 700-meter (2,296 feet) tether – made with the help of a fishing net company – to slow down and redirect space junk into a safe but fiery reentry into the atmosphere.

Read more in this BBC News report. Plus, more details in New Scientist.