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View Full Version : Discussion: How to Deal with Space Debris



Fraser
2005-Mar-22, 06:08 PM
SUMMARY: Once you're outside the Earth's atmosphere, you lose its protection from space debris. Small particles, no bigger than a few centimetres, are moving at such a velocity they can cause tremendous damage if they hit a satellite, or astronaut. When repairing the Hubble Space Telescope in 1993, astronauts discovered a hole blasted through an antenna, and numerous smaller pits and nicks. What strategies can mission planners employ to protect people and hardware in space?

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/deal_space_debris.html)

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

antoniseb
2005-Mar-22, 06:39 PM
One suggestion that I've posted previously is for a series of ion powered Earth orbit spacecraft to adjust their orbits and collect the known items floating around up there. There are a very large number of known objects. Every collision increases the number of deadly small ones.

Such a craft is only slightly ahead of our current technology, but realistically, this is the only way to clear the debris from some of the higher useful orbits. (The low orbits clean themselves from mild atmospheric drag.)

Gustavo 75
2005-Mar-22, 11:03 PM
The problem posed by space debris ranging from the calibre of used-up satellites to minuscule micro-particles is something that has many scientists at NASA and other space agencies elsewhere working on since at least fifty years ago. No one has reached a feaseble or affordable solution. Large objects can be collected during a shuttle mission to that purpose; but the dust-sized, or even microscopic, debris and micro-metheorites that move at extreme velocities in almost invisible orbits pose a problem that is very difficult to solve as well as a danger to spacecrafts and to personel working in space or in future space travels. The solutions devised to date are either impractical or too expensive. The co-operation among the space agencies of the various countries interested in space sciences may in the near future offer a practical and feasable solution to this situation.

rangutan
2005-Apr-04, 08:44 AM
The best solution is for the shuttles to take their main tanks up into orbit with them, specially to repeatedly visited targets like the ISS. Even if not exactly there, it is easier to track them than the smaller objects. Does any one know how much more this would cost? Usually the tanks are taken almost into orbit then jetersoned and desintegrate over the Indian Ocean. The tanks are enormous and could collect/absorb/deflect such space-junk over time without any hazard to electronics or spacemen. A small object piercing the tanks would be captured or atleast slow the projectile down to a degradible orbit or defected it if it skims the tank. The tanks (or its metal) could also eventually be used for construction of larger inter planetary vehicles, or for the protection of those to (also against sunbursts and other radiation) Also, I would like to call the free floating mini-objects not "junk" but reusable "scrap" for further use, really, thinking how much it costed to get the metal up there, it should be harvested!
Rudi

antoniseb
2005-Apr-04, 04:09 PM
Originally posted by rangutan@Apr 4 2005, 08:44 AM
The best solution is for the shuttles to take their main tanks up into orbit with them, specially to repeatedly visited targets like the ISS.
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. Are you suggesting that the tanks should be arranged as a barrier completely surrounding the ISS? That might make observation from the ISS a little difficult.

rangutan
2005-Apr-04, 06:58 PM
Yes, optionally as a barrier for atleast the "windward" side of the ISS, not nessessarly all around it, but certainly to protect the core or personel capsules. Even apart/seperate from the ISS, the idea is that the STS tanks because of thier massive size are targets for oncomming debris over time, dont chase the debris (that would need too much zig-zag acceleration and energy), since the debris is comming from all angles and velocity. The tanks would act as sort of like a slow continuous broom across the skies. Anyway, even if totally surrounded by maintanks (exept for docking and communication parts), the ISS is not a viewing platform but a laboratory.
Rudi

antoniseb
2005-Apr-04, 08:54 PM
as a barrier for at least the "windward" side of the ISS
The particles that would hit the ISS would come from all angles, including from underneath, so there isn't really a windward side.

Also note that the external fuel tanks are large by human standards, but are not so large as to sweep out a significant fraction of the volume of near Earth orbit space. Additionally, they would tend to shatter a bit on impact adding to, not subtracting from, the quantity of orbiting debris.

rangutan
2005-Apr-04, 10:05 PM
No, certainly extremely less debris hits from below (earth side) how? Then at very acute angles. And not much from behind either, the direction of travel (~30000km/h) when/then at very low relative speed. The idea is that for a continuous 90-minute orbit/sweep over many years, the tanks would eventually clean that altitude of the sky (ISS) or whatever altitude they are deployed at. The main structure of a tank is of an aluminium alloy (soft, flexible and non-brittle I believe) and multi-layered but will have to check that out and come back. If you have ever seen ballistic tests, a projectile peircing multi-layers and anyway through one side of the tank, through the inner volume and then through the otherside of the cylinder skin is far more decelerated than when passing through just one homogenious layer of material. You are right though when I think of the fragile insulation covering the tanks at launch, we dont want all that stuff in orbit!!! :-(
I have archives and contacts, will inform soon...
Rudi