World’s longest tether appears to have worked

The world’s longest tether – the 31.7km long 0.5mm diameter cord unwound between the Foton-M3 spacecraft and a 6kg re-entry capsule named Fotino, and the second Young Engineers Satellite (YES2) experiment, seems to have worked after all


The idea was to demonstrate the ‘SpaceMail’ concept of delivering parcels back to Earth from an orbiting spacecraft using only a tether instead of having to use chemical powered braking rockets.

A day before the Foton-M3 spacecraft returned to Earth, Fotino, was to be released from the end of the tether, but no signal was ever received from it its fate has been uncertain ever since.

“All of the data we now have available point to the fact that the tether unwound fully before the Fotino capsule was released,” said Roger Walker, YES2 project manager for ESA’s Education Office. “This means that the most challenging part of the mission was completed and that YES2 smashed the world record for the longest man-made object flown in space.”

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Tom Shelley

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