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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
It is becoming an ever increasing problem. Old dead junk orbiting out there gets blasted by cosmic particles and solar particles and hot and cold cycling which eventually causes flecks of paint to come off. A 2 or 3 centimeter fleck of paint can have the impact of a high velocity rifle bullet if it hits something at or near head on. This problem doesn't even include micro meteroids and they are out there too.

Here is a graph of space debris impacts on the space shuttles.

It has gotten so bad that the tracking team that tracks the bigger stuff that they can detect is tracking several hundred thousand orbiting pieces of junk from smaller stuff all the way up to first stages, fairings and dead satellites. For some time now people have been hitching a ride on space launches and throwing all these little cube sats out there. They are generally small and potentially difficult to radar track so lets just make the problem worse eh?


It has been named the Kepler syndrome named after some scientist named Kepler who has predicted that if "we" didn't do something about all this stuff that some day it would be too dangerous to send anything up into orbit and we would essentially be earth bound. So far, Nasa and the ESA has "plans" to send up garbage collectors of some sort or other but nothing is still being done. Meanwhile the problem is growing exponentially now. I personally believe that any country that has started launching objects into space has a part responsibility to clean up. Russia is one of the worst space trashing countries and they don't appear to be too concerned about addressing it.


Here is a radar shot of stuff that is big enough for radar to detect from the tracking system. It tracks all this stuff and informs the ISS when they need to make some sort of move to avoid being blasted. The ISS operates inside a 30 mile square zone that it can maneuver in to get around this stuff.



Humans aren't just trashing our planet. We are also trashing the space around our planet and we have begun to trash other planets also.
 

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Kinda surprised that a private company hasn't gotten started to deal with all the useless junk. Tiny stuff should be vaporized, bigger stuff sent to the sun. No reason to bring it back to Earth. Modify a drone to take care of the stuff and do it remotely.
 

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Kinda surprised that a private company hasn't gotten started to deal with all the useless junk. Tiny stuff should be vaporized, bigger stuff sent to the sun. No reason to bring it back to Earth. Modify a drone to take care of the stuff and do it remotely.
Uhhh...by FAR the best solution is to bring this stuff back to earth. If you can get it to the atmosphere it will burn up.

Imparting enough delta v on all this space junk to get it out of earth's gravity well and on a sol impacting orbit would involve technology we can't even imagine at this point. I believe it is roughly another 24,000 meter/second in velocity for an object in LEO (where it will be moving at about 7000 m/s) to make it to the sun.

Actually...the BEST thing, if technology is no object, would be to sweep all of this junk up into an orbiting factory that could turn space junk into useful technology, as if you could build satellites in earth orbit, your energy cost to move them to a higher or lower orbit would be a fraction of what it takes to launch them into orbit using rockets from the ground.

Phil
 

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When still working, I designed and built test equipment for the one SBSS satellite on-board processor. There were supposed to be three satellites, but government stopped funding after the first was completed and launched. The SBSS was put in a HEO so that it could look down on the satellites and junk below.

In the short term, sweeping the smaller stuff into a re-entry orbit would be best. Garbage collection is definitely way over due not to mention the stupidity of the ASAT tests. Given the ability of Boeing to fly their X-37B in orbit for over a year at a time, no reason that someone else could not create a robotic garbage collector, come on Elon. Just collect the junk and release it as the vehicle returns to Earth.
 

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Worrying about space junk is like worrying about politics. It just isn't healthy. Now go out and finish your Damn'd Mustang!
 

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Say an astronaut on a space walk took a tiny piece of space junk through the chest, what do you think the News media would do with this? What do you think the manipulated public reaction would be? Would the family of said astronaut sue the government (meaning Us) for compensation? A chance happening like this could really change NASA schedules I'm sure.
 

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Uhhh...by FAR the best solution is to bring this stuff back to earth. If you can get it to the atmosphere it will burn up.

Imparting enough delta v on all this space junk to get it out of earth's gravity well and on a sol impacting orbit would involve technology we can't even imagine at this point. I believe it is roughly another 24,000 meter/second in velocity for an object in LEO (where it will be moving at about 7000 m/s) to make it to the sun.

Actually...the BEST thing, if technology is no object, would be to sweep all of this junk up into an orbiting factory that could turn space junk into useful technology, as if you could build satellites in earth orbit, your energy cost to move them to a higher or lower orbit would be a fraction of what it takes to launch them into orbit using rockets from the ground.

Phil
The small bits will burn up, and eventually the stuff will fall out of the lower orbits and burn up on their own. But the bigger chunks will just litter Earth. And what will you do with the stuff you bring back? Gather it up, and launch it out of orbit. To the sun is nice, but just get it out of orbit is good.
An orbiting recycling factory is even more drastic that sending the junk to the sun, cuz we can do that now. Building a factory and getting people up there to man it and keep it functioning, now we're really in science fiction.
 

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The small bits will burn up, and eventually the stuff will fall out of the lower orbits and burn up on their own. But the bigger chunks will just litter Earth. And what will you do with the stuff you bring back? Gather it up, and launch it out of orbit. To the sun is nice, but just get it out of orbit is good.
An orbiting recycling factory is even more drastic that sending the junk to the sun, cuz we can do that now. Building a factory and getting people up there to man it and keep it functioning, now we're really in science fiction.
My point was your concept of launching satellites into the sun is Star Trek level fiction. Even getting spent satellites out of orbit, without resorting to bringing them into a crash landing in the Pacific is beyond our capabilities. So satellites that remain functional are typically accelerated into a higher orbit, clear of the common useful orbits near earth, OR they are decelerated by about 1500 m/s and dropped into the upper atmosphere where most simply burn up on reentry. Even skylab broke up so much on reentry that the largest piece recovered could be hauled around with a 2 wheel cart. The biggest cost to NASA should have been the $400 littering fine levied by the Shire of Esperance...but NASA refused to pay it...so even that cost was avoided.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
3 of the Vanguard satellites put up 60 years ago are still orbiting the planet with their orbits essentially unchanged. That is what Kepler's whole premise was about. We are putting up junk faster than it can fall down and eventually sometimes is a very long time.


Any sort of junk collector/deflector particularly addressing the small stuff will be purposefully going through what amounts to a shooting gallery. I think it would need giant unobtanium shielding or deflector screens or something. That stuff is not all just rotating in the same direction. It is the ones that hit something at oblique angles or nearing head on that do the maximum damage. Head on could be 34,000 or more miles per hour.



IF every country that is putting stuff up there was somehow compelled to at least financially support implementing a clean up system it could still be achieved but the junk collectors themselves might fairly routinely become a part of the junk problem. One of the ideas that has been thrown out for the small stuff is to blast puffs of atmosphere into clusters or particles and blow them down into reentry. Uhmmm, ok I guess. Every stray particle that hits something generates 3, 5, 12, 20, whatever additional particles and they are also zinging off in every which direction like extremely high speed tiny billiard balls.

The ESA is working on a gadget that will track, hopefully correctly identify junk, throw a spider web net over the bigger stuff and move it to a relatively safe higher orbit where it will park the junk out of everybody's way.
 

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while the movie Gravity had a lot of faults, it showed exactly what can happen in the worse case scenario. scary. I'll stay in the garage!
 

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My point was your concept of launching satellites into the sun is Star Trek level fiction. Even getting spent satellites out of orbit, without resorting to bringing them into a crash landing in the Pacific is beyond our capabilities. So satellites that remain functional are typically accelerated into a higher orbit, clear of the common useful orbits near earth, OR they are decelerated by about 1500 m/s and dropped into the upper atmosphere where most simply burn up on reentry. Even skylab broke up so much on reentry that the largest piece recovered could be hauled around with a 2 wheel cart. The biggest cost to NASA should have been the $400 littering fine levied by the Shire of Esperance...but NASA refused to pay it...so even that cost was avoided.
Catching an old satellite is no big deal. They already did that with the Shuttle when they retrieved a malfunctioning one and brought it back to be fixed. So that's a proven concept, but unless there's recyclable stuff, all we're doing is moving it to the bigger junkpile here, where we can't even get plastic bottles recycled. Grabbing a bunch of it, putting into a container and sending it into space is a much better idea. Putting into a solar orbit can't be that difficult, since we've already put things there, and it doesn't have to be too exact cuz gravity will take over soon enough and we won't have to worry about it any more. All of that has already been done (except the putting it into a container), so we're in science fact, not Star Trek. Just putting into higher orbit creates junk in a different level that we might need at some point.
 
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