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Earth Space Science Technology

9 Ideas For Coping With Space Junk 149

An anonymous reader writes "The space age has filled Earth's orbit with all manner of space junk, from spent rocket stages to frozen bags of astronaut urine, and the problem keeps getting worse. NASA's orbital debris experts estimate that there are currently about 19,000 pieces of space junk that are larger than 10 centimeters, and about 500,000 slightly smaller objects. Researchers and space companies are plotting ways to clean up the mess, and a new photo gallery from Discover Magazine highlights some of the proposals. They range from the cool & doable, like equipping every satellite with a high-tech kite tail for deployment once the satellite is defunct, to the cool & unlikely, like lasers in space."
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9 Ideas For Coping With Space Junk

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  • Hit or Miss (Score:5, Insightful)

    by teeks99 ( 849132 ) * on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @02:36PM (#33428178) Homepage

    That Discover article was pretty hit-or-miss. They nailed the real solution in two of their pieces (tethers and sails), in that the best (easiest, cheapest, only-one-that-will-probably-ever-happen) are technologies that are built into space objects (satellites and boosters) before launch. There's lots of options here from tethers, sails, balloons [], or just using existing thrusters. If we can stop leaving big pieces up there (which can run into other big pieces and make LOTS of pieces), the problem will start getting less severe.

    On the other hand, on of Discover's pages was about blowing up the debris...this makes sense, until you really think about it. The problem is that when you blow up something, it makes a huge number of new pieces, with all sorts of different velocities and orbits. On average, these pieces will fall to earth more quickly than the unexploded satellite, however, that's just the average. There are many pieces that will stay up there even longer. And when you're talking about things moving that these incredible velocities, it doesn't matter a whole lot if you get hit by a 6,000lb. satellite or a 5lb. piece of a satellite, either one will destroy anything we've put in orbit.

  • by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @02:54PM (#33428428)
    Oh hush. I'm trying to get some grant money!

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus