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Space Trash Crowds Orbiting Satellites Answered

Two or three times a day, a satellite circling Earth narrowly misses destruction by an orbital hailstorm of junk sweeping the busy super highways of space.

A spreading cloud of shrapnel from the collision of two satellites earlier this month is making wrecks for working spacecraft around Earth all but inevitable, analysts warn. As the ninth significant crack-up in two years -- including a punctured nuclear satellite -- the wreckage of Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 is fostering a chain reaction of collisions that puts billions of dollars of spacecraft and manned space flights at risk.

Full article and really cool slideshow: Harmless Debris on Earth Is Devastating in Orbit - Wall Street Journal.

via benjaneer.

27 Replies

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Maxus_Lu (author)2009-03-07

Well, may be it is possible to start a junk collection mission? There is no need to launch new material in to the orbit - they are already there! The next step - Space refinery station! People - I'm serious!

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Kiteman (author)Maxus_Lu2009-03-07

It's very, very difficult to collect things meeting at relative velocities of several thousand miles per hour. I think you need some sort of large foam ball to catch stuff - inflate it from a satellite like the foam they inject into walls.

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NachoMahma (author)Kiteman2009-03-08

. Other than the really large pieces, I don't see a cleanup effort being feasible. Think about the volume involved. We can't even keep the surface of Earth clean. ;) Another problem we'll leave for our children to deal with.

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JamesRPatrick (author)NachoMahma2009-03-12

We could outfit the shuttle replacement with one of those lasers that melts tanks and turn any large debris encountered into a gas.

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Sandisk1duo (author)Lithium Rain2009-03-10

think about it this way, if you come up with a solution, you will have $MONEY$

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Maxus_Lu (author)Kiteman2009-03-07

Yes, it is one of the ways to solve the problem. Anyway - it's TIME! Time to start gathering the garbage. All the rest is just a mean of reaching the goal. The problem is, that somebody should Do need this. OK, let's wait for ten more dead important satellites and see NASA, ETA and other "space"-men scratching their heads...

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Sandisk1duo (author)Maxus_Lu2009-03-09

i bet that's what every one else said 30 years ago, when they learned how much junk is in our oceans

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Rotten194 (author)2009-03-11

Collecting it is entirely infeasible. Look at that tiny green and blue ball. Thats 18,000 miles around, about. Any magnet powerful enough to collect the debris would harm Earth more than the good it would do.

*cough*Human Stupidity*Cough*

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purduecer (author)2009-03-08

Well...the hardest objects orbiting the earth are presumably metallic, and thus a fair portion are magnetic (I think, I'm sure the dynamic duo of Kiteman and Kelsey will mercilessly correct any inaccuracies, however). Therefore, could we not devise a magnetic or electromagnetic scheme to aid in collecting all of the space junk?

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Lithium Rain (author)purduecer2009-03-08

The double K... I hope no other members who have usernames starting with a K join the "scientific force". D:

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purduecer (author)Lithium Rain2009-03-09

hahaha, bravo sir, bravo!

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NachoMahma (author)purduecer2009-03-08

. I'm assuming that, due to weight, most "space metals" are non-ferrous. Eg, Al, Mg, Ti, &c;.

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Sandisk1duo (author)2009-03-09

well, you can blame NASA, and the European Space Agency, and the USSR

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=SMART= (author)2009-03-08

Stop whining guys ! At least it will slow invading aliens ! Optimism FTW

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Yeasayer (author)2009-03-07

Burn em to cosmic dust with a solar powered Laser, in orbit of course.

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Lithium Rain (author)Yeasayer2009-03-07

But that will only make it worse. Even a particle the size of a dust grain is dangerous going at orbital speeds. :\

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fwjs28 (author)2009-03-07

*cough* human stupidity *cough*

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comodore (author)2009-03-06

I knew this before and it is pretty amazing! Only, like 70 or less years have passed since we started putting satelites into space and look how crowded we made it! Amazing! We tend to over do thing and one of these days the broken satellites will start falling to Earth, i think!

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Kiteman (author)2009-03-05

A cascade-type process was predicted some time ago (I can't remember the source) - one destroyed satellite becomes debris that destroys 4, 8, 16 etc, potentially destroying every satellite in a given range of orbits in only a few hours, and a lot of the rest in a few days. The debris cloud would render orbital space inaccessible for years or decades, depending on the altitude.

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