Japan goes fishing for space junk

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Japan's space agency, JAXA, is reportedly working on a device to catch space junk - in collaboration with a fishing net company.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Nitto Seimo - which commercialized the world's first knotless fishing nets back in 1925 - has created a thin metal net several kilometers across.

The plan is to launch it into space via a small satellite, where it will sweep up chunks of debris that threatens satellites and spacecraft. Eventually, it will fall back to earth, burning up on re-entry, anlong with its contents. The system is expected to be ready in two years.

While most items of space junk are tiny, they still pose a serious threat; even the smallest particicles can have a 'sand-blasting' effect on spacecraft. More than ten million itsems - 5,500 tonnes of the stuff - is believed to be floating around in orbit, and it's only possible to track the larger items.

over the last year or two, several systems have been developed in the hope of improving the monitoring of space junk and eliminating at least some of it. Orbital and ground-based tracking systems have been created and Lockheed Martin has even proposed a 'space fence'

A mission called CubeSail is also expected to launch in 2013 and will operate in a smilar way to the JAXA system, trawling around to capture debris and bring it back to earth.