A Japanese startup says it has launched a satellite to test technologies to remove space debris.
Officials of Astroscale in Tokyo say a Russian Soyuz rocket launched from Kazakhstan on Monday put the demonstration satellite into orbit and that it is functioning properly.
The officials say their cleanup satellite uses a magnetic device to capture debris. The space junk and the satellite will then burn up when they reenter the atmosphere.
The mission will release mock debris and then capture it and also test technology to locate debris.
Astroscale says it is the first private company to launch a satellite to demonstrate technology to clean up space junk. It plans to put the technology into commercial use.
Space junk is a growing problem as discarded satellites and parts of rockets remain in orbit, increasing the threat of collision.
More than 20,000 pieces of such debris are believed to be orbiting the Earth. It's a growing problem that poses a danger to future space flights.