Giant net to scoop up space junk

It’s not as though we don’t have enough to worry about here on terra firma in terms of the environment and waste, but space junk does pose some serious threats.

British newspaper The Telegraph reports the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Nitto Seimo Co, a manufacturer of fishing nets, are teaming up to do something about capturing some of the space junk floating around out there. Yes, a giant net.

Under the plan, a satellite will be deployed into orbit with a thin metal net stretching a few kilometers. The satellite will detach from the net and like “ghost fishing” in our oceans, the net will continue its journey unaided, capturing objects in its path. But unlike the ghost fishing incidents here on Earth, it will be capturing rubbish, not dolphins, whales and turtles.

Over a period of time as the net fills with items, it will become electrostatically charged and be drawn back to the Earth’s magnetic field. Upon re-entry, the junk will burn up – they’ll want to hope they get that bit right :).

This unusual project isn’t just about cleaning up Earth’s orbit for environmental warm and fuzzy reasons – space junk poses a threat to satellites and manned space vehicles. While something as small as a bolt or even a fleck of paint mightn’t seem like it could do much harm, at the speed these bits of flotsam and jetsam travel, they can cause serious damage.

It’s a little unsettling to realize that even though so few of us have physically been in space, there are now literally millions of pieces of man-made junk floating around out there. It speaks volumes about us. 

Watching meteoroids streak across the sky isn’t quite as magical as it once was since I discovered some may be just be an astronaut’s discarded underwear burning up as they re-enter the atmosphere.

Learn more about space junk.