Japan Teams Up With Fishing Net Maker To Haul In A Catch of Space Debris

Space Junk

An artist's impression of space debris in low-Earth orbit. The U.S. government wants a better surveillance system to keep track of the thousands of space junk pieces.ESA

The proliferation of space debris surrounding our planet isn't just a theoretical problem--flying extraterrestrial garbage can cause damage to satellites, manned and unmanned space missions, and even the International Space Station. So we've seen quite a few proposed solutions already, but this is one of the best: Japan's space agency is partnering with a leading Japanese fishing net company to create a high-tech space net to capture all that unwelcome detritus above us.

JAXA, Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency, is collaborating with Nitto Seimo Co, a fishing net manufacturer responsible for the first strong knot-less net, on a very special kind of net. This one will be made of super strong 1mm triple-layered threads, which when extended will span several kilometers of space. The net will be launched with a satellite, and when detached, will begin orbiting Earth, collecting the miscellaneous engine parts, particles, and abandoned satellites that litter that region.

Interestingly, the net is designed as a one-time-use tool. That's different from DARPA's proposed net strategy, which would employ hundreds of nets aimed at redirecting space debris into the atmosphere to be either burned up or land harmlessly in the South Pacific. But this Japanese net is much larger, intended to collect as much debris as possible, and then let the Earth's magnetic field slowly draw it closer and closer to the planet, at which point it (and all of the debris in its clutches) will combust in the atmosphere.