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Space Junk Getting Worse 242

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the time-for-a-doomsday-machine dept.
HockeyPuck writes "According to Space.com the amount of space junk is getting worse. 'A head-on collision was averted between a spent upper stage from a Chinese rocket and the European Space Agency's (ESA) huge Envisat Earth remote-sensing spacecraft. [...] But what if the two objects had tangled? Such a space collision would have caused mayhem in the heavens, adding clutter to an orbit altitude where there are big problems already, said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany."
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Space Junk Getting Worse

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  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:27PM (#31263170) Journal

    When you abandon satellite, fuel tanks or anything else in the space, why not just push it floating further away in space? Let some aliens take care of them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Andorin (1624303)
      Or the sun?
    • Because that takes fuel, whether to push them into a higher orbit or a lower one (say to disintegrate on reentry).

    • by crow (16139) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:32PM (#31263262) Homepage Journal

      I think they normally push them into an orbit that will degrade so that they'll burn up on reentry. That takes less energy than putting them on a trajectory that leaves Earth's orbit.

      The real problem is junk that doesn't have working thrusters and communications so that they can tell it to de-orbit.

      • Maybe they should make a space barge that goes around taking care of space junk...

        There's a movie there somewhere, I know it!
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by tbischel (862773)

        I think they normally push them into an orbit that will degrade so that they'll burn up on reentry. That takes less energy than putting them on a trajectory that leaves Earth's orbit.

        For those lofty orbits in prime real estate (think Geosynchronous), they do push satellites out further into a graveyard orbit. It would take about 1500 m/s deltav to deorbit from way up there, and only a fraction of that to just push it a little further out of the way.

      • The real problem is junk that doesn't have working thrusters and communications so that they can tell it to de-orbit.

        If the missile defense lasers ever become viable weapons, they might be used to ablate space junk in such a way as to change its orbit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ircmaxell (1117387)
      That's not a viable solution, because perhaps, someday very soon (on an interplanetary scale at least) we'll want to send something into space... The better alternative would be to put it into a degrading orbit, and let it burn up in the atmosphere or crash into the ocean. Then, you could create an autonomous robot to go out an collect the "small" debris (and incapacitated objects) that are out there, and send them into a degrading orbit. At least we'd be able to predict some cool shooting stars!
    • by Tetsujin (103070) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:34PM (#31263306) Homepage Journal

      When you abandon satellite, fuel tanks or anything else in the space, why not just push it floating further away in space? Let some aliens take care of them.

      It takes energy to send a satellite up into a higher orbit, and even more to push it out of Earth orbit entirely...

      For that matter it also takes energy to shift a satellite to a lower orbit, too. About the only thing you get for free is atmospheric drag, and then only once your satellite is already low enough to run into the upper atmosphere.

      To give a satellite the ability to do any of these things, it must carry its own rocket motors and fuel - this increases the satellite's launch-weight, which in turn increases the fuel requirements of the booster.

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:56PM (#31263580) Homepage

        Exactly, so we should build a gigantic ground based laser that can vaporize a school bus sized object in 1/4 a second. I want the beam to be 30 feet wide and blackout every city in a hemisphere when it fires. Heck make it powerful enough that it adjusts the earth's orbit due to the amount of photos being fired.

        Plus we can use it when the aliens get here all pissed off that we are cluttering up the lower EM spectrum with a lot of useless chatter.

        • by Bakkster (1529253) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (nam.retskkaB)> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @04:11PM (#31263776)

          Not sure how serious you're being, but a laser could be used without needing to vaporize the entire object. A laser broom [wikipedia.org] works by vaporizing just a small part of the object to create thrust and knock the object out of orbit.

          The laser broom is intended to be used at high enough power to punch through the atmosphere with enough remaining power to ablate material from the debris for several minutes. This would provide thrust to alter its orbit, dropping the perigee into the upper atmosphere, increasing drag so that the debris would eventually burn up on reentry.

      • by dziban303 (540095) <dziban303@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @04:28PM (#31264002) Homepage

        To give a satellite the ability to do any of these things, it must carry its own rocket motors and fuel - this increases the satellite's launch-weight, which in turn increases the fuel requirements of the booster.

        Actually, a rocket motor and fuel is not required. A cheap, easy, and--I hate to use this word, but--"free" form of orbital propulsion exists. Electrodynamic tether propulsion [wikipedia.org]. Extend a conducting wire out from the spacecraft, and as it moves through the Earth's magnetic field, it can act as a motor or a brake like a normal electric motor. No fuel required.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          Actually, a rocket motor and fuel is not required. A cheap, easy, and--I hate to use this word, but--"free" form of orbital propulsion exists. Electrodynamic tether propulsion [wikipedia.org].

          Unless it takes up zero volume and zero mass, then it's not free.

          On top of which, the claim that it 'exists' is a shaky one, as while tethers are theoretically simple they've proven very hard to implement in practice. They're a long way from being proven technology and ready for prime time. Tethers also have significant draw

    • and reuse or recycle the parts.

      • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:57PM (#31263600) Journal
        We do exactly that. We let them burn up in the atmosphere, or crash into the ocean. The parts then get dissolved in the rain, or in the ocean water. The dissolved little bits get laid down on the ocean floor and riverbeds as mineral deposits. These mineral deposits get mined. The ore gets refined. New parts are designed, and voila, a few million years from now you get a shiny new starboard reticle articulation trunion. Why, the very reticle articulation trunions used on the shuttle Discovery were once part of a Jurasic era weather monitoring satellite.
    • by Jeian (409916)

      They tried something similar to this in Futurama. Didn't go so well.

    • by colmore (56499)

      Because Earth orbit is not zero gravity, it's freefall. Moving into a wider orbit takes thrust to counteract Earth's gravity, which is still considerable.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Because they don't have a space trucker with unlimited fuel to do that.

      It's far easier to use the last of the fuel to decay the orbit and crash it to earth than design the satellite to be 80X larger so it has giant fuel tanks and a big engine to get it to escape velocity.

    • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:55PM (#31263572) Homepage Journal
      These days, for the most part, we do that. Launch trajectories are planned with CCAM (collision and contamination avoidance maneuvers) deorbit profiles or extended orbital profiles. That is to say, spent rocket stages and such tend to be rocketed into escape orbits or back into the atmosphere to breakup. Satellites are a bit harder to do this with, as, sometimes they end up using a bit more fuel than planned and, as such, may not be able to thrust into a proper disposal method. Of course, this is also regulated now so most (if not all) modern missions are required to take this excess fuel margin into account when being designed.

      Really, the big problem with the current space junk comes from orbital bodies that are decades old. Before things were regulated heavily in orbital operations, many satellite were just left to decay and breakup in orbit. As a result, we have a lot of detached thermal blankets and other clutter drifting around up there. There is also a large contribution that comes from nations which do not follow modern disposal regulations. The article mentions that China is one of these nations. There are others (such as Iran) but they are not contributing a whole lot because many space programs are still small.

      When it comes down to it, spacecraft disposal is a responsibility just like terrestrial recycling. The responsible thing to do is pay more and dispose of things correctly. Unfortunately, we didn't plan ahead from the get go and some people just prefer cutting corners.
    • by Eudial (590661)

      For the same reason we don't "just push" things into orbit.

    • Maybe we could launch huge blocks of aerogel into low earth orbit. Or manufacture the aerogel in space. Carry a quantity of ethanol up along with a silicon alkoxide like tetraethyl orthosilicate. The astronauts can mix it up to create a big orbiting blob of SiO2 in a puffy aerogel form as the alcohol evaporates. Then as the orbiting paint chips or satellites whatever encounter this immense sponge of aerogel, they'll just punch a hole into it and bury themselves. The whole thing may need to be contained in a
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      The majority of junk is from garbage breaking off from the separations, etc. The issues are not the old sats as many have been moved. The real issues are the SMALL ONES (size of nuts, screws, etc) that can come in at 30K mph (retrograde) and take out the ISS or a craft. Another biggie was China's recent anti-sat work. When they destroyed the weather sat, they sent LOADS of small scrape EVERYWHERE.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      When you abandon satellite, fuel tanks or anything else in the space, why not just push it floating further away in space? Let some aliens [slashdot.org] take care of them.

      Why should the foreigners have all the fun? And rather than pushing them into space, do what has been done for years -- push it towards earth and let it burn up in the atmosphere. Ten or so years ago I saw a remarkable a spectacular bright green shooting star, which I found out a few days later was a piece of space junk with a lot of copper the Russians

  • Options (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeng (926980) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:34PM (#31263300)

    I wonder why this issue hasn't been fixed by now.

    I can come up with quite a few ways that we could remove space junk, most aren't very good, but there is one I think would work the best.

    Launch a couple satellites with solid state lasers. Heat up the side of the space junk facing earth and let the laser push it into the atmosphere.

    Plus if you have a few dozen up there you could perhaps deflect larger objects, yet they would be useless if you wanted to shoot a target on the surface of the Earth.

    There has to be a reason that there has been next to no attempt to control the space junk issue, I guess getting funding to clean up orbits is hard to come by.

    • Where ya gonna get the energy for this [dr_evil_quotes]"laser"[/dr_evil_quotes]?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jeng (926980)

        Solar panels.

        We're not talking a very powerful laser here, it doesn't have to be.

        • Could we not just use power on Earth to use lasers on Earth to incinerate the debris? We already track the debris from the ground with radar, why not use ground-based lasers to eliminate it? I'm aware the laser would need to be more powerful (adaptive optics can be used to correct for the atmosphere) but you benefit from ground-based power, people, and equipment.
          • by wagnerrp (1305589)
            You need an absolutely massive amount of energy to vaporize something with a laser. The current concept of a 'laser broom' is to use the laser to ablate a small part of the debris, causing enough thrust in the opposite direction to eventually deorbit it.
            • Use a laser on the ground reflecting off a mirrored satellite in a high enough orbit to sweep lower orbits. The laser power requirements are going to be huge, so best to use a ground-based power supply instead of trying to use solar power.
    • But then space will be weaponized, no matter how much space junk you promise to clean up it still will be able to kill live satellites.
      • by Jeng (926980)

        There have been weapons in space before. Satellites have more to fear against ground based attacks than they would for a small scale laser in orbit.

    • Re:Options (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tetsujin (103070) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:46PM (#31263462) Homepage Journal

      I wonder why this issue hasn't been fixed by now.

      I can come up with quite a few ways that we could remove space junk, most aren't very good, but there is one I think would work the best.

      Launch a couple satellites with solid state lasers. Heat up the side of the space junk facing earth and let the laser push it into the atmosphere.

      Plus if you have a few dozen up there you could perhaps deflect larger objects, yet they would be useless if you wanted to shoot a target on the surface of the Earth.

      There has to be a reason that there has been next to no attempt to control the space junk issue, I guess getting funding to clean up orbits is hard to come by.

      There will be no concerted effort to remove space junk until the risk of collision with space junk rises to the point that it costs less to remove the junk than to risk being hit by it.

      It could be that this is some important idea in physics I simply don't understand... But how does a laser push an object into the atmosphere? What good does heating up one side of it do? How powerful of a laser do you need to significantly alter the trajectory of a piece of space debris? And how do you heat up one side of it if the object is spinning? (Which it almost surely is...) What happens if the laser misses? And if the object you're shooting at doesn't give off a diffuse reflection, how do you know if you hit or missed?

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        It could be that this is some important idea in physics I simply don't understand... But how does a laser push an object into the atmosphere?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_pressure [wikipedia.org]

        Plus if you can ablate material you'll get thrust from that.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        But how does a laser push an object into the atmosphere? What good does heating up one side of it do?

        Photons carry momentum. Not much, but they do. So, the laser itself can push the object. Heating one side so it emits more photons would push it as well. If it's spinning that's not much use, but the laser would still impart momentum.

      • If you have enough energy to 'boil' the surface of the object (low pressure makes this easier but not trivial), then the local pressure difference is a differential force on the object. In this way, the laser appears to push an object in space.

    • A satellite such as you describe would be both tremendously expensive, and (quite justifiably) regarded as a weapon. And dealing with the amount of junk currently in LEO, we'd need not one such satellite, but a lot of them. There's also the problem of what counts as junk -- the US, Russia, and China certainly, and several other nations probably, have a number of satellites that have no public record of their existence, but which are very much active and functional. If anything the garbage-sweeping satell

      • by Jeng (926980)

        If anything the garbage-sweeping satellite doesn't have in its database is classified as "junk" and destroyed, it would end up taking these satellites down, and the owners might get ... testy.

        Then have it work off of a white list of approved junk.

        Besides, I'm talking about something for knocking the little bits and pieces out of orbit, it would take quite a big hit or multiple lasers to knock a black ops satellite out of orbit.

    • Re:Options (Score:4, Informative)

      by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:54PM (#31263558) Homepage Journal

      The vast majority of space debris consists of small particles, from microns up to 1 centimetre (0.39 in). Although there are an estimated 100 million such particles in orbit, they represent a tiny fraction of the total mass of human-made objects in space: perhaps 1%. On impact, these particles cause damage similar to that from a micrometeorite and the widespread use of Whipple shields is effective against the damage they would otherwise cause. Many parts of spacecraft, however, cannot be protected with Whipple shields and are subject to constant wear and tear.

      As these sorts of smaller debris represent the minority of the mass, and cause little damage, much of the focus on space debris risks centres on larger debris. The exact definition of "larger" generally means "the size that can be tracked using current technology" and thus changes as tracking technologies improve. In general, these objects are on the order of 10 centimetres (3.9 in) or larger and mass from about 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) and up. Collision with a fragment of this size at the average speed of 10 kilometres per second (6.2 mi/s) would be catastrophic. As a result, space missions have to consider a number of operational factors and risk mitigation strategies.

      (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_junk [wikipedia.org])

      Launch a couple satellites with solid state lasers. Heat up the side of the space junk facing earth and let the laser push it into the atmosphere.

      Plus if you have a few dozen up there you could perhaps deflect larger objects, yet they would be useless if you wanted to shoot a target on the surface of the Earth.

      There has to be a reason that there has been next to no attempt to control the space junk issue, I guess getting funding to clean up orbits is hard to come by.

      How are you going to "push" objects that cross your orbit with 10 km/s?

      They have some solutions on wikipedia:

      [edit] Self-removal

      It is already an ITU requirement that geostationary satellites be able to remove themselves to a "graveyard orbit" at the end of their lives. It has been demonstrated that the selected orbital areas do not sufficiently protect GEO lanes from debris, although a response has not yet been formulated.[47]

      Rocket boosters and some satellites retain enough fuel to allow them to power themselves into a decaying orbit. In cases when a direct (and controlled) de-orbit would require too much fuel, a satellite can also be brought to an orbit where atmospheric drag would cause it to de-orbit after some years. Such a maneuver was successfully performed with the French Spot-1 satellite, bringing its time to atmospheric re-entry down from a projected 200 years to about 15 years by lowering its perigee from 830 km (516 mi) to about 550 km (342 mi).[111]

      Another proposed solution is to attach an electrodynamic tether to the spacecraft on launch. At the end of their lifetime it is rolled out and slows down the spacecraft.[112] Although tethers of up to 30 km have been successfully deployed in orbit the technology has not yet reached maturity.[33] It has also been proposed that booster stages include a sail-like attachment to the same end.[113]
      [edit] External removal

      The vast majority of space debris, especially smaller debris, cannot be removed under its own power. A variety of proposals have been made to directly remove such material from orbit. One of the most widely discussed solutions is the laser broom, which uses a powerful ground-based laser to ablate the front surface off known debris and thereby produce a working mass that slows the debris in orbit. With a continued application of such thrust, the debris will eventually spiral down into a low orbit and become subject to atmospheric drag.[114]

      The US Air Force worked on a ground-based design under the name "Project Orion".[115] Although a testbed device was slated to launch on a 2003 Space Shuttle, numerous

      • 10 km/s in freefall in vacuum shouldn't be too hard, and you can lock on the laser at a small lasing power and then pulse it while on target.

    • Launch a couple satellites with solid state lasers. Heat up the side of the space junk facing earth and let the laser push it into the atmosphere.

      So far as I understand, lasers require a large amount of energy to produce an appreciable amount of heat. That energy has to come from somewhere, like large solar panels. Large solar panels (or other large power sources) add mass and moment arms to your spacecraft. This requires a complex control system (reaction control wheels and computers) to damp out possible perturbations and maintain an accurate pointing of the spacecraft (crucial if you are going to be shooting high powered lasers at anything). A co

    • Just keep the laser on the ground and use adaptive optics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptive_optics [wikipedia.org] so that it remains coherent up to the junk you're trying to get rid of. You don't have to change the orbit much, just enough to drop the Perigree into the upper atmosphere which can be done by pushing the junk straight upward away from the Earth. It's called a Laser Broom, they've been talking about it to protect the ISS from debris for a while now but there's no reason it couldn't be applied to the larg

    • Launch a couple satellites with solid state lasers. Heat up the side of the space junk facing earth and let the laser push it into the atmosphere.

      Umm, if you turn a laser onto the side of the space junk facing Earth, the laser will push it away from Earth, not toward Earth.

      If you want to make it hit atmosphere, you want to push the leading edge of the junk, which will drive it into a lower orbit, and eventually into atmosphere.

      Note, by the way, that we have a Treaty forbidding the weaponization of space (

  • If you think about it - with those crazy toilet systems and the fact that you're always trapped in those confining suits - really I think it's to be expected that space junk would be pretty awful.

  • Perhaps.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Bearded Frog (1562519) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:41PM (#31263398)
    Could we just continue this trend and call it a shield against alien invasions? I for one welcome the trash shield.
  • Who cares... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Superdarion (1286310)
    If companies don't hestitate to pollute rivers, seas, air and pretty much everything that could very well kill us right now, why would they think twice before polluting something we, as a civilization, have no regard for? Personally, I'd rather see them stop polluting Earth than low-orbit space.
  • Is absolutely vast, even considering the common orbiting heights. A couple of thousand objects floating around (OK with their own intrinsic velocity) in such a ginormous area, isn't going to cause *that* many problems.

    One would hope :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Speare (84249)

      A couple of thousand objects floating around (OK with their own intrinsic velocity) in such a ginormous area, isn't going to cause *that* many problems.

      The odds of guessing your birthday correctly is roughly 1:365. That's dismal odds. The odds of picking the birthday of somebody in your household is slightly higher, because everyone in your family probably has a different day for their birthday; however, it's really really unlikely (barring twins) for there to be a COLLISION where two people share the sam

      • by timster (32400)

        So what you're saying is, it won't happen to MY satellite, but I'll probably hear about it happening to somebody else's satellite.

        That doesn't really sound like a big problem...

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Applying the birthday problem to this only makes sense if you are considering the chances of space junk hitting anything else, including other space junk. We don't care if space junk hits space junk, we only care if space junk hits astronauts. (in other words, we only care if the space junk has the same birthday as the astronauts, not if space junk and space junk share the same birthday.)

        • by rotide (1015173)
          Actually, if one piece of space junk hits another piece of space junk, the net result will probably be more than two pieces of space junk. No, nothing of value was lost, however, now there is even more junk to worry about. The volume of junk may not have changed, but the odds of the new count of junk encountering something of value changes. However, I must note that it could _drop_ the chances if the orbits degrade because of the collision. But I have a feeling that's a futile point to get stuck on. Th
    • by Rand Race (110288)

      *Any* problem like this would be disastrous due to the Kessler Syndrome [wikipedia.org].

    • by rotide (1015173)

      True, however, there aren't many orbits that are useful (which you mention). Geosynchronous orbit, for example, is at a very specific altitude and speed. Put to much junk in that orbit or into an orbit that ends up passing through it and you have the potential to shut down all traffic in that orbit.

      That's just one example.

      You also have to understand the immense speeds things travel up there. Most of these items are traveling at faster than bullet speeds (6867+ mph for Geo Sync if my source is correct).

      Po

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:47PM (#31263472)

    So why don't they just use it and clean up?

  • When an unmanned satellite nearly hits an ejected rocket stage... what exactly counts as a head-on collision? Would it be safer if it was side-impact?

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Considering orbital velocities. a single 1/8th inch ball bearing would rip through a Military armored humvee like it was tissue paper. so a booster stage.... would turn both objects into several hundreds of thousands 1/8th inch to 2 inch sized jagged particles and pieces that are all now going to spread out and turn into a satellite death cloud.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      I really doubt that Chinese rocket was in a polar orbit, so this would be side-impact collision. But no it would make no difference at all to the total destruction of the satellite.

    • by mea37 (1201159)

      "what exactly counts as a head-on collision?"

      Direction of travel, one would imagine.

      "Would it be safer if it was side-impact?"

      In that less of the relative kinetic energy between the two bodies would be spent breaking them into smaller pieces, I suppose it might be marginally safer. That's a far cry from saying that it would be "safe", though.

      • by Jay L (74152) *

        "what exactly counts as a head-on collision?"

        Direction of travel, one would imagine.

        I never even took high school physics, but show me a two-body collision in which the direction of travel was not "toward each other"...

    • Would it be safer if it was side-impact?

      No. Orbital velocities result in extremely high kinetic energies. Any collision is likely to be catastrophic.

  • I always thought that with terrorists becoming the next mortal enemy the best way for an to fight woudl be to shoot a few rockets filled with #4 ball bearings into space. You kill communication (comm sat), mapping(GPS), and intelligence (spy sat), and force them to fight man to man.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:48PM (#31263498) Homepage
    We need to have someone up in space, collecting all this crap and recycling it. Even if it is just Sanford & Son style recycling, it costs way too much money to get mass up there for us to just throw it out and leave it there.

    If something weighs 3 tons and is in orbit, someone should be able to take it up to the space station, bolt it down, and start wielding the holes shut.

    • As might be imagined, smaller items are more numerous.

      Space debris [wikipedia.org]: The current equipment used to gather such information is only capable of tracking objects down to about 5 centimetres (2.0 in) diameter in low Earth orbit, and about 50 centimetres (20 in) in geosynchronous orbit. Out of the estimated 600,000 objects above 1 centimetre (0.39 in) diameter, only 19,000 can be tracked as of today.

  • As more and more of it piles up, I wonder, would they be legally responsible for their space junk and the damage it causes? When I was young and left toys out on the floor, I got in trouble whenever anyone stepped on it. Now older, if I left some nails on the road, surely someone would come looking for me.

  • Roger Wilco, SPAAAAACE JANITOR!

    Really though - make a fund to fund the development of a janitor robot. Something small, light and cheap that can attach to junk, then lob it at other junk to destabilize the junk orbit while maintaining its own orbit. The folks working on "Star Wars" projects would already be there on several aspects.

    Ryan Fenton

  • Thats a crap euphemism for collision!
  • Why not just maneuver out of the way like in that ridiculous Air Force commercial?

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @03:55PM (#31263568)
    Stop idiots [wikipedia.org] from blasting satellites in space an creating even more debris. Stop other idiots [wikipedia.org] from giving the first group of idiots a reason to blow up satellites.
    • Any nuclear armed country that wants to blow stuff up in space (whether to test satellite killing weapons, or just to grief the rest of humanity) is going to be able to do so.

    • Never going to happen. Space is high ground.
  • by Jawn98685 (687784) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @04:05PM (#31263704)
    A group of "industry scientists" has, they claim, shown conclusively that there is no "space junk problem". Moreover, they have shown that even if there is a problem, it is not man-made but is instead, due to natural changes that are cyclical in nature.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dadelbunts (1727498)
      Hell and i could see the moon last night. If there is so much spacejunk how come i can see the moon. Answer me that.
  • ...a giant penis in space, lacking a giant vagina? ;)

    “Tangling” of those two objects might be exactly what we need. ;)

  • I can answer that question: blood would have been spilt outside my office door. There's folks involved in both these missions with offices on my corridor :)
  • Has to me mentioned in the Rifts RPG at some point in the war someone launched effectively frag missles that turned everything in orbit into a high speed shredder locking out anyone off Earth and locking in everything on Earth. What it to prevent some lunatic rogue (yeah no makeup here!) nation from doing the same?

  • Space elevators http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_elevator [wikipedia.org] would help alleviate this problem since we wouldn't need to send up a lost rocket which pretty much every single launch. The other option is to build successor craft to the shuttle that are reusable and actually cost effective (at this point, it is essentially cheaper to send up most satellites using single-launch rockets rather than reusables). Each of these would help a lot in cutting down the space debris problem. Unfortunately, given human
  • Several high yield nuclear warheads launched to detonate simultaneously at a uniform high altitude, spread equally around the globe an equal distance around the globe to vaporize all the space junk in the upper atmosphere. No more space junk. What could possibly go wrong?

  • What I want to know is how much junk can we orbit before we have to start calling it a dyson sphere?

  • Ablation Cascade (Score:3, Informative)

    by PseudoThink (576121) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @04:28PM (#31264004)
  • Ya? Just wait til we put the Space Shuttle on blocks on our front lawn...

    Then the Universe will know just what kind of neighborhood we have over here.

  • by DrBuzzo (913503) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @04:57PM (#31264378) Homepage
    You really can't eliminate space junk, but you can reduce it. The biggest issue is not whole satellites, but tiny pieces. When an orbiting body breaks apart it goes from a single bullet to dodge into a shotgun blast.

    1. Vent tanks or have an automated vent valve that opens after time. Most rocket stages have a little bit of propellant left when they're done and this causes them to rupture. If vented, they won't rupture and they'll deorbit faster

    2. Design equipment to minimize small parts during separation. Many rocket stages seperate and eject fasteners, bolts, tie downs and so on when they do.

    3. When possible, deorbit LEO satellites when they reach the end of their useful life. In general, this is something companies and space agencies perfer not to do, because it means using the last bit of propellant to deorbit rather than keep the satellite operational for a few more months.

    4. Terminator tethers - an excellent idea for deorbiting that does not use propellant. (http://www.tethers.com/TT.html)

    5. If they can't be deorbited, at least put them in a "Grave Yard Orbit"

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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