Japan to Tackle Space Junk With ... Giant Net

It's magnetic, and first trial run starts next month

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 16, 2014 5:55 PM CST

(Newser) – The amount of dangerous junk floating around in space is by all accounts getting out of control. Next month, Japan's space agency will try to do something about it with a novel idea: It's launching a huge magnetic net, reports the South China Morning Post. The contraption is 1,000 feet long but only a foot wide, and the theory is that it will attract all the floating detritus in the vicinity. Odd tidbit: The space agency teamed up with a company that makes fishing nets for its construction.

Think of it as "a sort of extraterrestrial version of a street sweeper," says a post at DVice. Engineers figure that the net will fill up and gradually start descending toward Earth in about a year, causing both the net and its catch to burn up in the atmosphere. This is just the first of several tests, and the nets will get progressively bigger. Japan hopes to have the final system in place by 2019. (Among the other ideas for how to battle space junk: harpoons, lasers, and kamikaze robots.)

This is a computer-generated image provided by the European Space Agency; it's artist's impression of objects being tracked in Earth's orbit.
This is a computer-generated image provided by the European Space Agency; it's artist's impression of objects being tracked in Earth's orbit.   (AP Photo/ESA)
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