Tokyo, December 10: Scientists at the JAXA are experimenting with a tether to pull junk out of orbit around Earth, clearing up tonnes of space clutter including cast-off equipment from old satellites and pieces of the rocket. To execute this most needed experiment, Japan has launched a cargo ship on Friday bound for the International Space Station (ISS), carrying a 'space junk' collector that was made with the help of a fishnet company.
The cargo ship is also carrying other materials for the ISS including batteries and drinking water for the astronauts living there.
The capsule — called Kounotori, or white stork — contains nearly 5 tonnes of food, water and other supplies, including six new lithium-ion batteries for the station's solar power system. Astronauts will conduct spacewalks next month to replace the old nickel-hydrogen batteries that store energy generated by the station's big solar panels.
This is Japan's sixth shipment to the 250-mile-high outpost, currently home to Pesquet, two Americans and three Russians. It launched from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.
The H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 6 with cargo transporter to the International Space Station, the KOUNOTORI6 (HTV6) aboard lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 22:26:47 on December 9. (Japan Standard Time).
The launch vehicle flew smoothly and 15 minutes and 11 seconds after liftoff, the separation of the HTV6 was confirmed. The HTV6 will gradually get closer to and will be berthed at the ISS, reported Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA.
Scientists at the JAXA are experimenting with a tether to pull junk out of orbit around Earth, clearing up tonnes of space clutter including cast-off equipment from old satellites and pieces of the rockets.
The launch was successful as "the satellite was removed from the rocket" and put into the planned orbit about 15 minutes after the liftoff, JAXA spokesman Nobuyoshi Fujimoto on Tanegashima said.
More than 50 years of human space exploration since the Soviet launched Sputnik satellite in 1957 has produced this hazardous belt of orbiting debris.
There are estimated to be more than 100 million pieces in orbit, posing a growing threat to future space exploration, scientists say.