Japan hopes to deploy a giant net in Earth orbit to sweep up space junk.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Nitto Seimo Co, a fishing net company, are planning to tackle the increasingly hazardous problem of debris that threatens to wreck space shuttles and satellites.

Last year, a U.S. report concluded that space was so littered with rubbish that a collision could set off an “uncontrolled chain reaction” capable of destroying the communications network on Earth.

The thin metal net, spanning several kilometres, will be deployed by satellite and sweep up waste in its path as it circles the Earth. After a journey lasting several weeks, the net will become charged with electricity and be drawn back towards Earth with both the net and its contents burning up on entering the atmosphere.

Hmmmm… seems to me some of the “junk” would destroy the net depending on which direction and speed it was going.

Found by Obtuser.

  1. #1 CrackP0t says:

    This is awesome.

    Thank you Japan.

  2. MR says:

    And the net could be sponsored by Waste Management.

  3. Antibatou says:

    Space Junk is not a problem. This is not a solution.

  4. hhopper says:

    Space Junk IS a problem… however this may not be a solution.

  5. msbpodcast says:

    I just had a visual go through my head of some Japanese guy in a space suit with a Naruto headband, chasing after space debris with a butterfly net.

    That was definitely odd.

    I’m watching entirely too much animé. (Don’t be silly. There’s no such thing as too much animé.)

  6. Uncle Patso says:

    This problem gets worse every day. At this rate it won’t be long before it starts to affect communication. Just wait until 3/4 of the country can’t see the Super Bowl live because of satellite damage, then we’ll see some action!

    The hard part is what the net is to be made of — it shouldn’t be something that will splinter or spall when hit by a piece of space junk at high relative speed and just add more damaging particles to the mess. I’ve always thought a giant mass of something like gelatin might work — a giant Space Loogey!

  7. Skeptic says:

    … and how do they keep the satellites out of the net?

  8. sargasso_c says:

    Space Junk is not a problem. This is a solution.

  9. admfubar says:

    as if it isnt enough the tsa needs to grab your junk at the airport, now there is junk in space to grab..

  10. admfubar says:

    ooohhh forgot to add, shades of the old tv show ‘Quark’


  11. t0llyb0ng says:

    My solution which I submitted here long ago (& which was undeservedly ignored) was a team of orbiting robots (I imagine one would look something like R2D2 floating along) that patiently searches for articles of space junk, methodically moves in on each one, grasps it & uses a mechanical pitcher’s arm to loft the article toward where the sun will be by the time the article gets there. Wouldn’t have to throw it very hard. Just get it moving in the general direction. If it takes 10,000 years to get there, who cares.

    These Japs did not see my post, apparently.

  12. Bhelverson says:

    A lot of this space junk is traveling at very high velocity. Even if the piece of junk is small (like a paint chip), the momentum (mass x velocity) can still be high. I wonder how these fast particles can hit the net and not release fragments of the net. Of course, the net may deflect the junk in another direction but that may not be a good thing.

    However, I applaud the Japanese – at least someone is doing something.

  13. msbpodcast says:

    The only problem I see is that it is going to take a lot of reaction mass to accelerate up to match anything and more reaction mass to slow the anything down enough to insert into a decaying orbit for reentry.

    There is no solution for all that reaction mass.

    This is physics, not animé.

  14. deowll says:

    Use a ground based laser to evaporate everything we can detect.

  15. nobody says:

    #14 – yes because the one thing that’s better than a large piece of material subject to drag which will soon reenter – is to melt it so it forms into spherical metal ball bearings moving at mach 20

  16. Spanner says:

    This is nothing but a metaphor for net censorship.

    they will be collecting the IP’S of truth seekers, who will then be burnt.

    33 times.

  17. Cristina F says:

    WOW…this is a HUGE problem! Seems to me that a lot more planning needs to go into all FUTURE satellites, etc. that are sent out into space…pre-payment for retrieval, even mandatory retrieval/destruction method…how the HECK do the space shuttles find their way around all of that crap!?

  18. Cristina Again says:

    …and I wonder just how many poor souls are quite literally stuck in an eternal game of pinball trying to make it up to the pearly gates of Heaven????????

  19. Glenn E. says:

    10- admfubar, yes! Thank you. Yes! Great little show of its time. I have the DVDs. It got canceled in favor of Mork & Mindy. Though I’m sure The Pioneers of Television will have a different spin on this. If they mention the show at all. I think NASA just didn’t appreciate a comedic view of their gravy train. It would be decades before Red Dwarf. And that was on BBC-Tv. The US didn’t dare poke fun of such a cash cow, first, or at all, for very long.

    BTW, I know what you’re thinking. MST3000. Yeah, but not until 1989. And only on Cable, in limited markets, for years. Comedy Central didn’t reach my local (Balto.), until MST3k was canceled on CC, and moved to Scifi. And BTW, it mostly played during the early AM hours, while on CC. I only saw some of them, because I got a relative, in another county, to tape them during their final CC year (1996).

  20. Glenn E. says:

    Actually. I’m doubtful that the space net. baggie, fly paper, whatever, will work. But a thick armored plate, angled downward, to deflect junk that hits it at the speed of a bullet, will burn up in the atmosphere. A net would have to be of some Kevlar construction, to catch most speeding debris. And anything over a certain size, would have to be “captured” by a robotic satellite. And rocket assist reentered back down to earth. Making such debris move valuable than gold, for the cost of the effort.

    Maybe they should put a dollar reward value on retrieving the stuff. So “Andy Griffin” like space junk dealers would try their hands at salvaging the skies. And BTW, “Salvage 1” is another Tv series I wish they’d pull their heads out of their ass, and release on DVD.

  21. Glenn E. says:

    BTW. Check out the “Salvage” 1979 Tv movie on Youtube, if you’re curious or nostalgic.

  22. Dallas says:

    As long as they don’t snare any angels or unicorns the religious loonies shouldn’t bitch too much.

  23. JoaoPT says:


    Nice idea, but instead of a mass to deflect things down, why not make Satellites Armour Plated and make that plate slanted downwards?
    That way, any debris hitting the satellite, would be deflected down, into the atmosphere

  24. Buzz Mega says:

    “seems to me some of the “junk” would destroy the net depending on which direction and speed it was going”

    That would be true in low earth orbit. This is aimed at the communications network devices. Where are they? Geosynch. Where everything is roughly in the same plane near the same speeds.

    While the illustration looks fatal, you’d have to reduce each orbiting graphic by a factor of a trillion or more to represent the real danger to scale. You know, for graphic clarity.

    Finally, what happens to a paint fleck, glove or bolt that smashes into the net from an opposite orbit? Punches through. Losing orbital velocity. And when that happens…

  25. MRN says:

    Am I wrong in thinking that one nation’s space junk is another (hostile)nation’s secret military satellite?

  26. meterneeder says:

    Where’s the B.S meter on this one?

  27. General Tostada says:

    So Japanese engineering folks are going after the space junk problem. They apparently want to be effective at inspecting comets, supplying the space station and other cosmic endeavors as well. They would like to be recognized for these things, and if they actually work, then that’s okay as far as I’m concerned.

    If they can solve the space junk hassle in the way they took over the USA car market, I’d say let them give it a try. Threatening asteroids, too, while they’re at it. we’re all watching.


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