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Space Science

Boeing Proposes Using Gas Clouds To Bring Down Orbital Debris 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the anti-space-station-weaponry dept.
cylonlover writes "Boeing has filed a patent application for a method of disposing of dead satellites and other debris orbiting the earth by hitting them with a puff of gas. The method, which is still at the conceptual stage, is designed to slow down satellites, forcing them to re-enter the atmosphere without sending up more space junk that itself will need disposing of. The idea is to send a small satellite into orbit containing a gas generator. This generator can be a tank of cryogenic gas, such as xenon or krypton, or a device designed to vaporize a heavy metal or some relatively heavy elements like fluorine, chlorine, bromine, or iodine. This gas would be released as a cloud in the same orbit as the debris, but traveling in the opposite direction." Clever of them to patent this, since knock-off space-junk removal systems are in such high demand.
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Boeing Proposes Using Gas Clouds To Bring Down Orbital Debris

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  • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Friday October 05, 2012 @01:49PM (#41561657)

    This reminds me of another method using light instead of gas, which was described at a recent space conference. The idea was to pulse laser light toward the west (since most space debris is traveling predominantly eastward), and over time the photons alone could provide enough delta-v to nudge things out of orbit more quickly. For the big stuff they have other plans in mind, such as electrostatic tethers and micro-rockets. But for little stuff, the light pulse would be a cost-effective "shotgun" approach to deal with the cloud of crap that's too small to track.

    Sorry I can't find a link at the moment. I saw it a few months ago on YouTube from either NewSpace or SpaceUp, or ISDC or one of the other conferences in the last year or two.

  • by icebike (68054) * on Friday October 05, 2012 @02:57PM (#41562227)

    Clearly the customers here are Governments.
    One of the first orbits to be cleared would probably be around the ISS.

    John Campbell of Iridium spoke at a June 2007 forum discussing the difficulty of handling all the notifications they were getting regarding close approaches, which numbered 400 per week (for approaches within 5 km) for the entire Iridium constellation. He estimated the risk of collision per conjunction as one in 50 million. Yet in 2009, less than two years after he made his prediction, his company lost Iridium 33 to a collision.
    To date, there have been eight known high-speed collisions in all, most of which were only noticed well after the fact.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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