Back on January 27th, Japan’s space agency, JAXA successfully launched their space junk collecting spacecraft to the ISS.
Called the Kounotori 6, it had a mission to test JAXA’s planned method to clean up the space around up by dragging any space debris out of Earth’s orbit, which it would be by basically lassoing the junk and then pulling it down to a fiery death.
Sadly, it seems the only thing receiving a firey death as part of the mission was going to be the spacecraft itself, which suffered a technical issue that prevented the cable (the lasso) from unfurling, resulting in the spacecraft falling out of orbit ahead of the completion of its mission.
If all went to plan, Kounotori 6 would have helped JAXA see if a magnetised cable could be used to drag disused satellites back to Earth using a 700-metre cable and the Earth’s magnetic field to drag it.
Sadly it did fail, despite a number of attempts from JAXA to fix the spacecraft’s problems but there are other plans to clean up some of that space junk.
The UK has plans to test a net and harpoon system next year and the ESA is working on a grabber and net system that they plan to launch in 2023, so there’s still plenty of room for success in this area.