Wednesday, February 09, 2011

JAXA is going fishin!


From an article in Inhabitat is a rather unique proposal among many. It seems the Japanese space agency JAXA is teaming up with net manufacturer Nitto Seimo to go fishing in a most unusual fishing hole, for an even stranger catch. Nitto Seimo will build a kilometers-wide net made of ultra-thin triple layered metal threads. This net will be cast in Earth orbit where it will scoop up space junk.

From the article:
  • The net will gradually be drawn into Earth’s magnetic field and burned up along with the abandoned satellites, engine parts and other litter it’s collected.
The USA has proposed something on a bit grander scale. From the article:
  • The U.S., is proposing a satellite rigged with hundreds of butterfly-style nets that would hurl their catch toward the South Pacific, where it wouldn’t cause any damage. The satellite and nets could be reused.
Whoever shoulders the task, it will prove to be herculean. The junk in orbit consist of everything from spent rocket stages and defunct satellites. Debris includes slag and dust from solid rocket motors, paint flakes, coolant released by RORSAT nuclear powered satellites to even clusters of small needles!

In mid-2009 NASA updated the debris estimate. NASA places the number of large debris items over 4 inches at 19,000, up to approximately 4 inches at about 500,000, and estimates that debris items smaller than 1/2 inch probably exceeds tens of millions.

Wikipedia article

12 comments:

Rosehippi said...

Did I understand that right??? They want to round up all the space junk with all its componest and poisons and DUMP THEM IN OUR OCEANS? What part of that sounds right to anyone else??? There is already a huge island of junk floating in the deep Blue... the little bits of colored metal and plastics the mama birds are feeding to their babies and hundreds maybe thousands of them die every year leaving the little bits scattered in their desicated corpses and bones... Why cant they be recycled and reused for more space adventures??? wHY do they go into the Ocean??? who benefits from that? Not Earth and NOT our Animal and Sea creatures...
Does this make sense to anybody???? Surely there is another way???

Beam Me Up said...

Rosehippi, yeah, that was NASA's plan not JAXA's. I wonder how much would actually make it in from orbit... but you know, I am willing to give any viable idea a fair shake, but even that idea set me back.

Ron Huber said...

Wait a minute. Didn't anyone ever read Russell Hoban's "Riddley Walker?" Or Octavia Butler's "Lilith's Brood"?

That may be "junk" to you, but to future near-earth space colonists, it represents an awful lot of painstakingly, expensively- transported-up-the-gravity-well feedstocks for the multiprocessing units that will convert them into whatever metal and plastic items are needed..

What Japan is proposing is the high tech version of Mainera using burn barrels to get rid of "grandpa's old stuff".

Won't those future orbiting trash recyclers shake their fists at our ignorant 21st century, for burning all the good stuff!

I say JAXA should net it and sack it for future generations that know the value of space waste.

Beam Me Up said...

Ron
You know, I had the initial reaction much as you did....I mean, just to get your hands on a booster from some early NASA mission or some such. But then you have to think, what is the vast majority of material up there and to be brutally honest, it's just plain garbage. You first and foremost should be raising the red flag on the pollution near space is being inundated with. Ahhhh is this a case of "can't go there, don't care"? An environment that would take advantage of this type of trash, if it ever happened, would mean cheap economical flight off planet, which means this type of wasteful economy would not be happening anyway. But for the sake of argument any kind of useful structures and electronics that have been in place for the centuries that it would take for a free standing society to evolve would be worthless archaic junk. Meanwhile we would all have to pay the price of dodging a minefield on every launch for X amount of years? No, Our front yard is an unbelievable mess, time to grow up and deal with it, instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

Ron Huber said...

Actually I meant that it can be used as scrap metal, scrap plastics etc etc, easily recycled using simple foundries in space, rather than lug it up from below.

Beam Me Up said...

Ron
Perfectly reasonable, but the fact is that synthetics degrade much much faster in a high ultraviolet environment. We have already seen in the 50 odd years we have had launches that these things tend to run into each other if not maintained. I wonder just how much usable material there would be.

Ron Huber said...

Lotta steel, though. Plus degraded plastic is still petrified gasoline, plenty of energy burning that; and only God's the EPA out there. Is polluted vacuum still a vacuum?

Beam Me Up said...

Ron
I don't know where this idea came from that most plastics are inviolable. That is hardly the case. All you have to do is look at a plexiglass window in sunlight after even a few years to see what happens. We are not talking about breaking down into smaller pieces here but a breakdown of chemical bond that make up the material. Under the lash of radiation it would be exposed to I would doubt that there would be anything left after a few centuries. As for the metals...granted, it would take somewhat longer, but space is hostile and LEO moreso due to our efforts. Any viable space based society would do better to mass drive from the moon or the asteroid belt. Lets stop acting like some twitchy hoarder and the "oh we might need that later" mentality. We don't need to be treating LEO as some future version of the China tech dumps. yuck

Ron Huber said...

I would defer to your superior wisdom, only you haven't mentioned any alternatives to burn it or hoard it.

Beam Me Up said...

Ron
That is why I think the LAXA option is so attractive...the material never reenters the biosphere, is cheap and easy to deploy. This stuff about NASA wanting to dump it in the ocean is insane and leaving it there is just as crazy. High temp ionization sure seems attractive. Remember we wouldn't be burning it as it were but subjecting it to temps much higher than most blast furnaces can attain. Remember when Skylab came down? The largest chunk that they could ever find of the huge structure was a small piece of stainless steel. From the toilet I think.

Paul

Ron Huber said...

That DOES put it in perspective. Tora tora tora, baby!

Beam Me Up said...

Ron!
I shouldn't be laughing here, because dat ain't funni! You sir are outrageous.