Space Lace: Net Fishing in Low Earth Orbit

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Lisa Marks is launching the ancient craft of fishing villages into space vehicle design. Her work adapting traditional textile handcraft to modern problems created a unique opportunity for collaboration cleaning up space debris.

According to NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office (OPDO), this debris jeopardizes future space projects. Large objects like rocket bodies and non-functional satellites are the source of fragmentation debris.

The OPDO website says removal of even five of the highest-risk objects per year could stabilize the low Earth orbit debris environment.

A research team with members from the Georgia Tech Research Institute and the Aerospace Systems Design Lab has developed a concept using a net to capture and de-orbit large debris.

A mutual connection at Tech's GVU recommended that the team speak to Lisa Marks, assistant professor in the School of Industrial Design, based on her work combining traditional textile with new materials and methods.

“There’s a lot of different projects on space debris happening all around the world,” Marks said, “and there’ve been a few concept papers talking about using a net.”

“But all the drawings of the net are basic concepts, just a square with a few hatches through it. No one has figured out what that net might be.”

Marks researches ways to combine traditional textile handcraft with algorithmic modeling. “I specialize in analyzing the shape of every stitch and how we can use that stitch differently. Can we create new patterns through coding, or make it larger and out of wood?”

“It allows me to think really creatively about how we can use different textiles.”

This innovative, exploratory approach is a natural fit to create a net for a job no has ever done. “There's a lot of technical considerations with this,” Marks said. 

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    Walter Rich
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