TOKYO -- A demonstration satellite scheduled to be launched within fiscal 2023 that aims to approach space debris, apparently in the first attempt of its kind in the world, was shown to the press on Sept. 7.
The satellite, dubbed ADRAS-J, was unveiled by Tokyo-based venture Astroscale Japan Inc., which is developing technology to remove space debris including the remains of satellites and rockets that have reached the end of their operational lives.
The satellite is 80 centimeters in length and width, 1.2 meters high and weighs about 150 kilograms. It is scheduled to be launched by a commercial rocket from New Zealand by the end of this fiscal year. The satellite aims to come within a few to several dozen meters of the upper section of the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No.15 -- a large rocket measuring some 4 m in diameter and weighing about 3 metric tons. The vehicle was launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2009 and is currently orbiting the Earth at a speed of around 8 kilometers per second.
ADRAS-J is equipped with multiple high-performance cameras and laser rangefinders. Its goal is to accurately grasp the position and movement of the target debris and approach it safely. In the future, the company hopes to establish technology to capture space debris using a robotic arm and plunge it into the Earth's atmosphere, where it will burn up.
Eijiro Atarashi, the project manager at Astroscale Japan, said, "The space debris problem is an urgent issue. We hope this technical demonstration will bring us closer to a solution."
As countries have become more active in space development, the amount of debris orbiting around Earth continues to increase. If left unchecked, debris could collide with the International Space Station or artificial satellites, causing major accidents, and there is also a danger of such debris falling to Earth. However, no practical technology to remove it from orbit has been developed to date.
(Japanese original by In Tanaka, Lifestyle, Science & Environment News Department)