A satellite designed to inspect space junk just made it to orbit

Astroscale’s ADRAS-J spacecraft, a demonstration satellite that can provide data future space debris cleanup efforts, is now in orbit after a successful launch from New Zealand on Sunday. The satellite was launched into space on an Electron rocket from Rocket Lab. The mission, selected by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) for Phase I of its commercial debris extraction demonstration program, will see ADRAS-J rendezvous with the upper stage of an older Japanese rocket that has been in orbit since 2009.

The accumulation of debris in Earth’s orbit from decades of spaceflight is a growing concern, and space agencies around the world are increasingly working to address the problem, in many cases turning to private companies to develop potential solutions. One of the most effective ways to deal with space debris may be to remove it from orbit or transport it to a lower altitude to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. ADRAS-J will first target a portion of existing large debris and attempt to safely approach and characterize it based on ground data to pinpoint its position.

Over the next few months, it will make its way to the target and eventually try to get close enough to take pictures and assess its condition to determine if it can be removed. “ADRAS-J is officially on duty and ready to meet some space junk!” company he tweeted. “Let the new era of sustainability in space begin!”

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