National / Politics

Japan and U.K. agree to promote public-private cooperation to tackle space debris

JIJI

Japan and Britain signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday to promote public-private cooperation on measures to tackle the problem of space debris.

The governments of the two nations are aiming to encourage private firms to help reduce the growing amount of orbiting debris left over from previous rocket and satellite launches.

They are expected to consider a rating system for companies that take steps to help reduce the debris, and come up with incentives for such firms in terms of fund procurement and damage insurance.

The MOU was signed between Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the U.K. Space Agency at the first session of a bilateral industrial policy dialogue in Tokyo. The dialogue framework was agreed to at a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his British counterpart, Theresa May, in August.

The Japanese ministry plans to send a research team to Britain in February next year with the aim of nurturing domestic industries by taking advantage of expertise in Britain, which fosters many startups.

Much of the space debris is moving at such high speeds around the Earth that new satellites launches are being prevented. The number of pieces of such debris, including those measuring less than one centimeter, is believed to total more than 1 trillion.

Competition in global space development is intensifying partly because U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has revived the National Space Council, in order to better compete with China and Russia.

Japan is now working to boost space cooperation with Australia and India as well as Britain.