Japanese cargo craft falls to Earth after failed space-junk experiment

Japanese cargo craft falls to Earth after failed space-junk experiment

"We believe the tether did not get released", KITE researcher Koichi Inoue said, according to AFP.

Earlier, Japanese agency reported that space junk collector is encountering some problem and has not been successfully deployed. On board was also an experimental magnetized tether meant to gather space junk in orbit around Earth.

JAXA's space-junk-removing tether was created to latch on to a piece of orbiting debris and then pull it down into earth's atmosphere for a fiery disposal. Bits of retired satellites, metal expelled from rockets, and abandoned equipment make up this ominous cloud of debris. Scientists estimate that there are now more than 100 million pieces of debris in orbit and that they pose a growing threat to future space exploration.

More than 50,000 pieces of debris are now whirling around our planet, including fragments of nonfunctional spacecrafts and abandoned satellites.

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Japanese space agency JAXA has confirmed a major disappointment in a mission to test technology for cleaning up space junk: the Kounotori 6 cargo transported burned up in the atmosphere while returning to Earth on Monday. "It is certainly disappointing that we ended the mission without completing one of the main objectives". Last December, HTV-6 delivered five tons of food, water, clothes, science experiments, and other supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). There are about 20,000 pieces of tracked debris now in orbit.

Space junk has no easy cleanup, and it's a problem that's worsening exponentially. In June, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced Clean Space, an initiative to remove large objects of debris from orbit by using a giant net gun and robotic arm to snag pieces out of orbit.

For example, in 2009, a dead Russian satellite collided with an operational US satellite, producing about 700 pieces of space junk in the process. Both the craft and the space debris would burn up on re-entry.