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.
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.
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.