Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
The Japanese space agency has now promised to make sure that future launches of its new low cost Epsilon rocket will not leave its upper stages in orbit as space junk.
Epsilon’s first flight, which was a success, left two large objects — the rocket’s upper stage and a smaller post-boost stage — in an orbit with a perigee of some 800 kilometers, meaning neither will fall into the atmosphere for a century or longer. In the meantime, they will add to the population of orbiting garbage that poses a threat to active satellites traversing this orbit.
Japan has signed international agreements requiring them to not create space junk, so on future launches they are promising to make sure the upper stages are released in low enough orbits that they will quickly decay and burn up in the atmosphere.