Author Topic: Cleaning up near earth space  (Read 34779 times)

Offline rklaehn

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #20 on: 02/23/2009 08:22 AM »
Even talk about lasers to push the stuff around is just goofy--idle chatter by people who have not bothered to work out things like how much power it would take to do this.

Sorry, but I have to disagree with this. The paper I linked is definitely more than idle chatter. There are more detailed proposals, but for the sake of the discussion I linked to one that is freely available on the internet.

They specifically discuss power requirements and costs. They only propose to deal with the debris in the 1..10cm range.

The technology exists to focus laser light on objects several 100km away. It is not cheap since you need an aperture of several meters, but it is definitely possible if you are willing to spend significant amounts of money. As an example, see the Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser.

A space debris mitigation facility would probably cost on the order of a billion USD. But that is less than the cost of a single large earth observation satellite, which kind of puts the cost in perspective.
« Last Edit: 02/23/2009 08:26 AM by rklaehn »
Try the ISS 3D visualization at http://www.heavens-above.com/ISS_3D.aspx

Offline rdale

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #21 on: 02/23/2009 08:36 AM »
I highly recommend reading some of the literature and signing up for the quarterly newsletter at the NASA Orbital Debris Program Office for those with more interest...

http://orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/

Offline DrCoffee

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #22 on: 02/23/2009 09:37 AM »
Thanks Rdale
Very interesting.
I'll be looking at that site often.

Offline cozmicray

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #23 on: 02/23/2009 05:22 PM »
The vastness of space  -- look at the volume between the top of
the atmosphere out to Geosync orbit and about 18000 objects.
About 6.4 trillion Cubic Miles per object in orbit
Lots of space between pieces of space junk!!!

Hard to grasp a cubic mile  let alone 6.4 trillion!!!

Offline DMeader

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #24 on: 02/23/2009 05:30 PM »
The vastness of space  -- look at the volume between the top of
the atmosphere out to Geosync orbit and about 18000 objects.
About 6.4 trillion Cubic Miles per object in orbit
Lots of space between pieces of space junk!!!

Hard to grasp a cubic mile  let alone 6.4 trillion!!!

If I may quote the late Douglas Adams....

Quote
"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space."

From "The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy"

Online Blackstar

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #25 on: 02/23/2009 08:30 PM »
Am I allowed to learn something while debating a topic I know dangerously little about?

You sure are.  But your posts reflect an attitude that is actually rather common among space enthusiasts.  Because you see a problem, and don't see a solution, you are assuming that people who work in the field are obviously not trying hard enough, or not being inventive enough, or are simply not smart enough.  Because, if they were, they would have solved the problem.  Obviously, something is wrong with them.  (See: ISS construction and resupply, Ares I)

But as is frequently the case, the new person, the outsider, has very limited knowledge of just how tough a problem it is, and even less understanding of how much effort has already been devoted to it.  So if you really want to learn, a better method is not to keep proposing your own solutions on a bulletin board, but to start by reading some books and learning about the physics and the previous efforts to address it.  There are a number of books on the topic.  And quite a few journal articles.  I went to Amazon and typed in "orbital debris" and came across a number of hits:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=orbital+debris&x=0&y=0
« Last Edit: 02/23/2009 08:35 PM by Blackstar »

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #26 on: 02/23/2009 08:33 PM »
Sorry, but I have to disagree with this. The paper I linked is definitely more than idle chatter.

What was the size of their research grant to study the issue?  How big was the research team?  Did their proposal go beyond Phase A?  How much has been spent developing the technology?

I measure the seriousness of a proposal in part by the amount of money spent on development.  This proposal has never been studied in detail or evaluated for technical, political and budgetary feasibility.

Offline DrCoffee

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #27 on: 02/24/2009 05:23 AM »

You sure are.  But your posts reflect an attitude that is actually rather common among space enthusiasts.  Because you see a problem, and don't see a solution,
Very true.

you are assuming that people who work in the field are obviously not trying hard enough, or not being inventive enough, or are simply not smart enough.  Because, if they were, they would have solved the problem.  Obviously, something is wrong with them.  (See: ISS construction and resupply, Ares I)
Not true....I do realize there are many much more knowledgable than myself, however, how often has a solution come from new, stupid, uninformed ideas being thrown into the pot?



But as is frequently the case, the new person, the outsider, has very limited knowledge of just how tough a problem it is, and even less understanding of how much effort has already been devoted to it.  So if you really want to learn, a better method is not to keep proposing your own solutions on a bulletin board, but to start by reading some books and learning about the physics and the previous efforts to address it.  There are a number of books on the topic.  And quite a few journal articles.  I went to Amazon and typed in "orbital debris" and came across a number of hits:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=orbital+debris&x=0&y=0

Thanks, will look into it, this is a real good starting point.

Offline Jim

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #28 on: 02/24/2009 11:37 AM »

Not true....I do realize there are many much more knowledgable than myself, however, how often has a solution come from new, stupid, uninformed ideas being thrown into the pot?


Not very often

Offline William Barton

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #29 on: 02/24/2009 11:54 AM »
One comment about this subject, with regard to cost effectiveness: Jet airliners still ingest birds and fall out of the sky. It's a solvable problem, but no one wants to pay for a solution.

Offline rklaehn

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #30 on: 02/24/2009 12:12 PM »
Sorry, but I have to disagree with this. The paper I linked is definitely more than idle chatter.

What was the size of their research grant to study the issue?  How big was the research team?  Did their proposal go beyond Phase A?  How much has been spent developing the technology?

I measure the seriousness of a proposal in part by the amount of money spent on development.  This proposal has never been studied in detail or evaluated for technical, political and budgetary feasibility.

So you are arguing that the amount of funding a concept receives is an indicator of the feasibility of the concept? While this is probably often the case, there are also various counterexamples in both directions.


Various extremely technically challenging concepts such as NASP and the lockheed x-33 have received significant funds, while other much simpler concepts such as Transhab and the other x-33 proposals have not received significant funding.

DIRECT has received precisely zero funding, while ARES has received several billion USD. Does that mean that ARES is infinitely more feasible than DIRECT?


Seriously, I think even if deorbiting space debris with a large ground-based laser was completely technically feasible, I can think of many political reasons why the concept is difficult to sell.

Can you specify which part of the orion laser proposal you think is too difficult?

a) Spotting the space debris
b) focusing a laser on it from ~1000km away, or
c) deflecting it by evaporating a thin layer?
Try the ISS 3D visualization at http://www.heavens-above.com/ISS_3D.aspx

Online Blackstar

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #31 on: 02/24/2009 06:31 PM »
One comment about this subject, with regard to cost effectiveness: Jet airliners still ingest birds and fall out of the sky. It's a solvable problem, but no one wants to pay for a solution.

Kill all the birds.

Offline ApolloStarbuck

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #32 on: 02/25/2009 09:04 AM »
Left on their own, debris will deorbit evenutally with no effort on our part.  The problem is when the debris starts impacting other debris and making even more, harder to track fragments.  at some point LEO becomes a swarm of small, destructive kinetic missiles.

Could a large orbiting mirror be used, concentrating light pressure on swaths of certain orbits and deccelerating small particles enought to cause them to deorbit?
Of course, I suppose that would also interfere with any satellites in the same orbit.

Just a thought.
...weren't we supposed to be on Mars by now?

Offline gospacex

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #33 on: 02/25/2009 07:13 PM »
Could a large orbiting mirror be used, concentrating light pressure on swaths of certain orbits and deccelerating small particles enought to cause them to deorbit?

I guess large enough mirror will eliminate more junk by colliding with it than by zapping it with lasers.

Thus, make it even bigger, but you don't need it to be a mirror :) Imagine something to the tune of 100x100 meter flying square which destroys debris by colliding with it.

Will still take a lot of time (or a lot of squares) to measurably clean up LEO.

Offline Prospero

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #34 on: 02/27/2009 11:54 PM »
Just wondering - would there be any scientific benefit to getting some of the older/deceased satellites out of orbit and brought back to Earth somehow for disassembly, even if they have orbits that will remain stable for decades more anyway? To see what things worked well/badly and what types of things could be learned from this to put in to new systems etc to improve their ability to function in some way? I'm not talking about the how & how much to do so at this stage, just whether or not it would be of use. Not being in the industry of Satellites etc I don't know whether this kind of thing would actually be of any benefit even if it was simply a case of clicking your fingers and the bird in question were on the table ready to be carved up so to speak ;)

Also, do any of you think it would be worthwhile for some of these things to be brought back and put in museums? I know for example that I would pay to go see a museum of these things, showing our efforts in space over the years - even just historical items like the glove that escaped the Gemini pod on one mission etc?

With regard to the general question of clearing up space junk/debris though, I do feel that we should take a more responsible attitude to what's currently up there. While it is laudable and indeed essential that we do our best to ensure that future missions etc minimise adding to this debris field, I don't think we should just wash our hands of the rest of it just because it seems too expensive an issue to fix so to speak. It's mankind's backyard after all, and if we made a mess then we should really think about clearing it up if it's at all possible - maybe discussion in to possible solutions to this should therefore be encouraged rather than dismissed/supressed? Ok - the stats might indeed show that the chances of any of this stuff actually causing harm to anything up there are small, but a chance is still a chance, and surely a smaller likelihood is something to be aimed at just for the sake of those improved odds of not having something cause an issue?

Mark
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Offline Vacuum.Head

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #35 on: 02/28/2009 01:24 AM »
Not very often

But when they do they revolutionise their scientific field.
Here's one: E=mc^2. Remember he was working as a patent clerk at the time: http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/tv-radio/einstein-and-eddington-1549477.html. The first paragraph gives a good summary as to how his peer group reacted....
And just to add insult to injury:
"All four papers are today recognized as tremendous achievements—and hence 1905 is known as Einstein's "Wonderful Year". At the time, however, they were not noticed by most physicists as being important, and many of those who did notice them rejected them outright. Some of this work—such as the theory of light quanta—remained controversial for years.[28][29]"
Wikipedia
Unfortunately we will always have the "Utter Bilgers" with us:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_van_der_Riet_Woolley
In my experience it is only when the old guard die off, that real scientific progress can be made! If there is one thing that behooves us as speculative thinkers, scientists and engineers working at the boundaries of the possible is that sometimes we should listen to the right brain and look for ideas coming from the <a href="http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/16/messages/609.html" >left field[/url]!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke%27s_laws
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Offline robertross

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #36 on: 02/28/2009 02:43 PM »
Just wondering - would there be any scientific benefit to getting some of the older/deceased satellites out of orbit and brought back to Earth somehow for disassembly, even if they have orbits that will remain stable for decades more anyway? To see what things worked well/badly and what types of things could be learned from this to put in to new systems etc to improve their ability to function in some way? I'm not talking about the how & how much to do so at this stage, just whether or not it would be of use. Not being in the industry of Satellites etc I don't know whether this kind of thing would actually be of any benefit even if it was simply a case of clicking your fingers and the bird in question were on the table ready to be carved up so to speak ;)

Also, do any of you think it would be worthwhile for some of these things to be brought back and put in museums? I know for example that I would pay to go see a museum of these things, showing our efforts in space over the years - even just historical items like the glove that escaped the Gemini pod on one mission etc?

With regard to the general question of clearing up space junk/debris though, I do feel that we should take a more responsible attitude to what's currently up there. While it is laudable and indeed essential that we do our best to ensure that future missions etc minimise adding to this debris field, I don't think we should just wash our hands of the rest of it just because it seems too expensive an issue to fix so to speak. It's mankind's backyard after all, and if we made a mess then we should really think about clearing it up if it's at all possible - maybe discussion in to possible solutions to this should therefore be encouraged rather than dismissed/supressed? Ok - the stats might indeed show that the chances of any of this stuff actually causing harm to anything up there are small, but a chance is still a chance, and surely a smaller likelihood is something to be aimed at just for the sake of those improved odds of not having something cause an issue?

Mark

Mark,

I'm sure a case could be made to have the satellites as museum pieces, but the costs involved would be prohibitive. Anything more that a couple million and the response would be "let it burn'.

From a implementation point of view, if you made a hollow CaRV that opened up, with a heat shield & parachute for re-entry, that would be the way to go I think. Alot of small detail in there would be required for stationkeeping, to fit it properly, and make it secure.

As for failure modes, the ISS provides that platform for us just fine. Anytime something fails is a gold mine imo: lessons learned. The mmod shielding and solar arrays are also getting bombarded regularly, so that's direct evidence & scientific data to go by. Too expensive to return a satellite for that purpose alone, although the recent failure of that military satellite (second failure, with more in that series ready to launch, which they halted pending review). There might be a case for that if no root cause were found.
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Offline gospacex

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #37 on: 02/28/2009 06:40 PM »
Just wondering - would there be any scientific benefit to getting some of the older/deceased satellites out of orbit and brought back to Earth somehow for disassembly, even if they have orbits that will remain stable for decades more anyway? To see what things worked well/badly and what types of things could be learned from this to put in to new systems etc to improve their ability to function in some way?

Considering how much it costs - no. You can do the same research on ISS or a dedicated materials research satellite. There were at least two such satellites launched and retrieved by Shuttle.

Quote
Do any of you think it would be worthwhile for some of these things to be brought back and put in museums?

Not on my tax dollars please.

Offline gospacex

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #38 on: 02/28/2009 06:44 PM »
Not very often
But when they do they revolutionise their scientific field.
Here's one: E=mc^2. Remember he was working as a patent clerk at the time: http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/tv-radio/einstein-and-eddington-1549477.html. The first paragraph gives a good summary as to how his peer group reacted....
And just to add insult to injury:
"All four papers are today recognized as tremendous achievements—and hence 1905 is known as Einstein's "Wonderful Year". At the time, however, they were not noticed by most physicists as being important, and many of those who did notice them rejected them outright.

You make a false assumption that since Einstein was right but was ridiculed by some at first, every insane idea is actually brilliant, but misunderstood.

I'm afraid that for every Einstein, there are millions of idiots, and almost each has his own insane ideas.

Offline mmeijeri

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Re: Cleaning up near earth space
« Reply #39 on: 02/28/2009 06:56 PM »
Here's one: E=mc^2.

Speaking of which: what would happen if we nuked some of the debris? Not seriously suggesting that of course. Would that vaporise the debris or send extra shards all over the place? My guess is that instead of dangerous debris you would now have radioactive dangerous debris. The EMP would likely also be ... unhelpful.
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