• Next month,  Japanese rocket will be launched with a 300 metre-long net
  • The net will generate a magnetic field to attract some of the debris in orbit
  • Both the net and its contents will burn up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere
  • Nasa claims amount of space junk around Earth has reached a ‘tipping point’

By
Ellie Zolfagharifard

15:20 GMT, 15 January 2014

|

15:28 GMT, 15 January 2014

Space might seem like a vast, empty expanse, but in reality the area surrounding Earth has become congested with junk.

This junk – which can include anything from old rockets, abandoned satellites to missile shrapnel – will soon make it difficult for spacecraft to leave the planet.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has now teamed up with Nitto Seimo, a company that manufactures fishing equipment, to build a ‘magnetic net’ that can fish out space debris.

CleanSpace one

There are around 22,000 objects in orbit that are big enough for officials on the ground to track and countless more smaller ones that could do damage to human-carrying spaceships and valuable satellites

The first test of this equipment is scheduled for late February when a Japanese rocket will be launched to deploy a satellite made by researchers at Kagawa University.

Once the satellite is in orbit, it will release a 300 metre-long wire net that will then generate a magnetic field strong enough to attract some of the debris in orbit.

Both the net and its contents will burn up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere.

Based on a data archive, each miniature sphere in this image represents an existing object orbiting in space. Next month, a Japanese rocket will be launched with a 300 metre-long net to 'fish out' some of this debris

Based on a data archive, each miniature sphere in this image represents an existing object orbiting in space. Next month, a Japanese rocket will be launched with a 300 metre-long net to ‘fish out’ some of this debris

WHAT IS SPACE JUNK?

Since
the first object, Sputnik One, was launched into space 53 years ago,
mankind has created a swarm of perhaps tens of millions of items of
debris.

The rubbish circling the planet comes from old rockets, abandoned satellites and missile shrapnel.

There are around 22,000 objects in
orbit that are big enough for officials on the ground to track and
countless more smaller ones that could do damage to human-carrying
spaceships and valuable satellites.

It
is estimated that there are as many as 370,000 pieces of space junk
floating in Earth’s orbit, traveling at speeds of up to 22,000 mph.

One major source of debris in the past
was the testing of anti-satellite weapons carried out by both the U.S.
and Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.

Accidental
events have also contributed to the problem. In February 2007 for
instance, a Russian Briz-M booster stage exploded in orbit over South
Australia.

The possibility of a satellite crashing into a hunk of space debris has worried scientists for years.

One collision could send thousands of pieces of debris spinning out, potentially destroying other satellites.

There are around 22,000 objects in
orbit that are big enough for officials on the ground to track and
countless more smaller ones that could do damage to human-carrying
spaceships and valuable satellites.

Television signals, weather forecasts, global-positioning navigation and international phone connections are just some of the services at risk.

A recent Nasa report said that the amount of space junk orbiting earth had reached a ‘tipping point’.

In 2009 there was a major crash between a U.S. communications satellite and a defunct Russian military probe over Siberia.

The collision at speeds of at least 15,000mph created a cloud of 1,500 pieces of space junk that the International Space Station then had to manoeuvre to avoid.

A Chinese missile test in 2007 left 150,000 pieces of junk in the atmosphere.

These two events encouraged the U.S to support the United Nations when it issued guidelines that urge companies and countries to stop cluttering Earth’s orbit.

The comments below have not been moderated.

ftk67,

Las Cruces NM USA,

53 minutes ago

Too bad they cannot clean up the results of their radiation leak or the debris washed out to sea by a Title Wave and are now polluting the Pacific Ocean and our planet.

Kevin,

Newport News, United States,

1 hour ago

How much is titanium, aluminum or other non magnetic pieces of material?

Aptrinkle,

Fayetteville,

1 hour ago

I wonder what secrets they will find in all the Junk out there.

Shuj2303,

Leeds, UK,

2 hours ago

Well at least their attempting to solve a problem which could potentially become damaging.

stevehtid,

swindon, United Kingdom,

2 hours ago

any one watched gravity? think that film sums up what space junk could do to humans and mission out of earth

Campaigner,

Wallasey, United Kingdom,

39 minutes ago

No, Gravity sums up what Hollywood thinks what space junk could do to humans – load of twaddle.

Rusty Shaft,

Integrity, United States,

2 hours ago

Space Balls.
150,000 pcs of junk from one test?
were they TRYING to pollute the area?

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