Japan’s high-tech space junk collector might already be broken

Since the beginning of the space age, debris as small as flecks of paint and as large as whole satellites and parts of rocket boosters have been accumulating and it is estimated that over 100 million individual pieces of junk (tens of thousands of pieces that are over 10 centimeters in size) are whizzing around our planet.Japan’s new “fishing net” space junk collector has failed, and space agency Jaxa must now race against time to secure its fix.This is a third time in a year that the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is facing its performance failure, and this time it is related to high-tech, junk-grabbing tether that is showing now non-functionality issues from the cargo ship in space.One end of the strip will be attached to debris big enough to damage working equipment.The electricity generated by the tether as it swings through the Earth’s magnetic field is expected to slow down space junk and pull it into a lower and lower orbit until it enters the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up.HTV-6, also known as Kounotori 6 cargo ship, arrived at the space station in December and delivered almost 5 tons of supplies for the astronauts.The unmanned Kounotori 6 spacecraft departed from the International Space Station (ISS) over the weekend and on Tuesday was supposed to begin its first trial run to clear up some of the trash orbiting Earth.Although space is often imagined as deserted place, the region around the Earth is cluttered with millions of pieces of man-made debris.But JAXA says it is not sure if the tether, made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium, successfully deployed or not.JAXA is hoping to fix the problem until Saturday, before the cargo ship burns up in Earth’s atmosphere. Just two weeks ago, the JAXA was forced to abort a mission aiming to use a mini-rocket to send a satellite into orbit. In February previous year, JAXA had to abandon an advanced and $270 million satellite after the agency lost contact with the satellite.Bags of rubbish ejected into space by cosmonauts on board the Mir Space Station also still pose a risk.A tool bag was lost by astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn in 2008 and it added to the hazards in orbit until it burned up in 2009.