A Pentagon report warned last year that there is so much junk whizzing around Earth that any collision in space could cause a knock-on effect that would destroy vital communications satellites.
Japan Prepares to Launch Giant Net into Orbit to Sweep up Space Debris consisting of 100 million bits of junk floating around the Earth. 22,000 of those pieces of space debris are believed to measure 10 cm or longer, potentially threatening satellites and the International Space Station. Most of the debris is made up of discarded parts of degrading satellites and old rockets. Japan’s space agency has taken help from a fishing net company to pick up debris in Earth’s orbit using a giant net.
WHAT IS SPACE DEBRIS/JUNK?
Since the first object, Sputnik One, was launched into space 53 years ago, mankind has created a swarm of perhaps tens of millions of items of debris.
The rubbish circling the planet comes from old rockets, abandoned satellites and missile shrapnel.
The picture below shows a ball of twisted metal, thought to be fallen space junk, on a farm in Queensland, Australia, in 2008.
The possibility of a satellite crashing into a hunk of space debris has worried scientists for years.
One collision could send thousands of pieces of debris spinning out, potentially destroying other satellites.
Television signals, weather forecasts, global-positioning navigation and international phone connections are just some of the services at risk.
The uncontrolled chain reaction could make some orbits unusable for both commercial or military satellites, according to the U.S Space Posture Review sent to Congress in March 2010.
In late February, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is teaming up with a fishing equipment company to test out an unusual approach to fighting space junk: a satellite equipped with a 300-meter magnetic net that will sweep up the man-made debris hovering in low-Earth orbit. The net is only 30 cm wide when unspooled, and it is composed of a highly flexible metal fiber. When the net is launched into space, it will use a magnetic field to attract pieces of orbiting debris.
Over the course of a year, the collected space junk will sink lower and lower, eventually burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. If this test proves successful, a kilometer-long version has already been fabricated for future use. Jaxa is currently figuring out how to use space craft to attach these nets to larger pieces of space debris, like old rocket engines or broken satellites. A functioning system could be deployed as early as 2019.
How do they plan to do this ?
It is estimated that there are 370,000 pieces of space junk floating in Earth’s orbit.
Now the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Nitto Seimo Co plan to solve the problem by sweeping up damaged satellites and space shuttles. They will attach the thin metal net, which is several miles wide, to a satellite and then launch the pair into space.
Once in orbit, the net will be released at which point it will start picking up space junk in its path during a journey that is expected to last several weeks. The net will become charged with electricity causing magnetic fields to pulled to Earth.
Both the net and its contents will burn up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere.
Recent accidents in space
1) In 2009 there was a major crash between a U.S. communications satellite and a defunct Russian military probe over Siberia. The collision at speeds of at least 15,000mph created a cloud of 1,500 pieces of space junk that the International Space Station then had to manoeuvre to avoid.
2) A Chinese missile test in 2007 left 150,000 pieces of junk in the atmosphere.
These two events encouraged the U.S to support the United Nations when it issued guidelines that urge companies and countries to stop cluttering Earth’s orbit.
If such space accidents continues to happen in the near future as well then the day is not far when this space debris would shut down our major communication sources and may also create a threat to the existence of Earth Ecosystem . Japan has taken the Initiative to clean our space backyard since prevention is better than cure .
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