phys.org: The vessel, dubbed "Kounotori" (stork in Japanese), blasted off from the southern island of Tanegashima just before 10:27 pm local time (1327 GMT) attached to an H-IIB rocket. via AFP
'Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are experimenting with a tether to pull junk out of orbit around Earth, clearing up tonnes of space clutter including cast-off equipment from old satellites and pieces of rocket. The launch was successful as "the satellite was removed from the rocket" and put into the planned orbit about 15 minutes after the liftoff, JAXA spokesman Nobuyoshi Fujimoto on Tanegashima told AFP.
'More than 50 years of human space exploration since the Soviet-launched Sputnik satellite in 1957 has produced this hazardous belt of orbiting debris. There are estimated to be more than 100 million pieces in orbit, posing a growing threat to future space exploration, scientists say.
'Researchers are using a so-called electrodynamic tether made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium (sic). The idea is that one end of the strip will be attached to debris which can damage working equipment—there are hundreds of collisions every year. The electricity generated by the tether as it swings through the Earth's magnetic field is expected to have a slowing effect on the space junk, which should, scientists say, pull it into a lower and lower orbit. 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.'