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## Giant Balloons Could Solve Space Junk Problem210

An anonymous reader writes "More than 100,000 objects bigger than a centimeter wide hover around our planet, accounting for 4 million pounds of junk that befouls our atmosphere and threatens the expensive satellites we actually want in orbit. Dr. Kristen Gates, of Global Aerospace Corporation, proposes that we can clear the skies by attaching a football field-sized balloon to dead satellites, which would increase the orbital drag, eventually bringing a satellite down into the atmosphere where it would burn up. The GOLD — or Gossamer Orbit Lowering Device — unit is easily inflated in space, and best of all, if the deployed GOLD balloon collides with space junk, it won't deflate or break the junk into smaller, less manageable bits."
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## Giant Balloons Could Solve Space Junk Problem

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• #### And all you need to do is catch up to the debris.. (Score:2, Insightful)

on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:00PM (#33144906)
Easy-peasy. No delta-V issues here...
• #### Re:Collision course (Score:3, Insightful)

on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:01PM (#33144916)

How can satellites be secret? Either they are highly reflective and everyone can see them or they are going to be very warm.

• #### Pounds ??? (Score:1, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:11PM (#33145018)

WTF is "pounds" ?

• #### Re:Does it mass more than the fuel to de-orbit? (Score:3, Insightful)

on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:20PM (#33145122) Journal

>>>Every gram costs a small fortune, so they used every gram of fuel to keep the satellite "stationary" (i.e. in desired orbit).

It's pretty pathetic that despite 50 years of space experience, we still have to worry about mere grams of fuel. I suspect humans will never develop the ability to travel further than our own solar system - it would be too expensive (in terms of fuel).

1000 years from now we'll be in pathetic shape, with all our oil, uranium, and other resources drained dry, and just barely surviving. Never mind space travel. There won't be enough fuel for the rockets. ----- I also suspect this is why we've never been visited by aliens. They can't escape their own solar system due to lack of energy.

• #### Why not collect it in space? (Score:4, Insightful)

on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:31PM (#33145232) Homepage

What I don't understand is, since we already paid a hefty price to lift this "material" into space, why not collect it in orbit and save it until we can utilize it as raw materials for future space projects. There must be lots of useful stuff that could be reprocessed and reused.

Doesn't everyone have the expectation that we will have factories in space to build the things that are needed in space from raw materials gathered from around the solar system? This would just be raw materials for those factories that doesn't have to be lifted out of the gravity well of earth.

• #### Re:Why not collect it in space? (Score:3, Insightful)

<dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:53PM (#33145398) Homepage Journal

In most case you would spend more then you could possible get out of bringing it back.

• #### Re:Why not collect it in space? (Score:2, Insightful)

<VortexCortex.project-retrograde@com> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:55PM (#33145414)

Why not collect it in space?

It's not economically feasible to collect it, but you might like Planetes [anime.com] - an Anime about collecting space junk in exchange for eco-friendly credits (like carbon offsets).

• #### Re:Does it mass more than the fuel to de-orbit? (Score:3, Insightful)

on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @08:14PM (#33145552) Journal
A ribbon will actually end up perpendicular to the satellites orbit, due to tidal effects.
• #### Re:Yes, but can they make the surface sticky? (Score:3, Insightful)

<brad1138@yahoo.com> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @08:28PM (#33145674)

The differences in velocity are generally too great. It would be like trying to stop a shotgun blast with a single layer of packing tape. If you're lucky, a tiny speck of the tape might stick to a few of the pellets as they shred the strip and continue on their way.

Sounds like a new Myth Busters episode...

• #### Re:Collision course (Score:4, Insightful)

on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @09:25PM (#33146044) Homepage Journal

abelenky17 is off-base. The ones most likely to be of interest are also the largest (and generally most-capable) units, which would require the most fuel to move. Mercury SIGINT satellites are around five tons, and the Lacrosse synthetic aperture radar satellites reportedly mass up to 16 tons, and both are in LEO.

This isn't to say that they cannot change orbits, just that it requires a very good reason to do so, as not only does it use up precious fuel, but like any operational satellite it has scheduled uses. They're never put up there "just in case we need them."

It's also not to say that there is no use for highly-variable orbits. That the Air Force has been playing with their recently-launched toy shows as much. It's just that such things are not trivial achievements. Such capabilities make it much harder to hide from overhead eyes. Lacrosse-5 has some kind of technology that allows it to "disappear" even in direct sunlight, which makes much more sense than loading it with tons of fuel, but still leaves it fairly predictable.

• #### Solves the wrong problem (Score:3, Insightful)

on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @11:04PM (#33146512) Homepage Journal

The big stuff that would be worth mounting a mission to de-orbit typically isn't the problem. The little, tiny, hard to track bits of space rubish is the real problem.

The big stuff can usually be avoided since it is easily tracked. The little, tiny stuff is effectively a bullet travelling at 17,000 or so miles an hour. It's too small to track and one piece of such junk can ruin your spaceship. Plus, there is a lot more of it than the few, big, defunct satellites that you might want to attach a balloon to.

Cheers,
Dave

• #### Re:Yes, but can they make the surface sticky? (Score:2, Insightful)

on Thursday August 05, 2010 @09:57AM (#33149396) Homepage Journal

Because when the space junk is a bolt traveling at 10km/s relative to you, sticky doesn't quite cut it.

What if you filled the balloon with ballistics gel?

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