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Kounotori Experiment (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper III)

Japan’s space agency lauched Kounotori (“White Stork”), a space capsule that will attempt to clean space debris orbiting around earth, using an unusual approach. 

ORBITAL DEBRIS:
Orbital debris, which consists of man-made objects, is usually the residue of inactive space vehicles.

WHY IS THERE A NEED TO CLEAN SPACE DEBRIS:
 Because these objects move at high speeds and can collide with incoming space vehicles, there’s a case for cleaning them out.

TECHNOLOGY USED:
The Kounotori uses a kind of “electrodynamic tether” forged from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium. One end of the strip will be attached to debris and the electricity generated by the tether as it swings through the earth’s magnetic field. It is expected to slow the speed of space junk and pull it into a lower and lower orbits.
Eventually the detritus will enter the earth’s atmosphere, burning up harmlessly long before it has a chance to crash to the planet’s surface.

WHAT IS ELECTRODYNAMIC TETHER?
An electrodynamic tether (EDT) is a simple idea, but one with an amazing number of uses. An EDT system is made up of two masses in orbit connected by a long, flexible, electrically conductive cable; the tether is essentially a wire that moves through the magnetic field of the Earth (or another planet or large body).



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