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Orbital Debris A Growing Problem

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posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 04:20 PM
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The proliferation of garbage in low Earth orbit has reached
a point where it will increase in the coming decades even if
all rocket launches were canceled starting now, according to
research by NASA’s Johnson Space Center.


The satellites and rocket stages designed and launched before
the seriousness of the problem was recognized are like time
bombs, waiting to break apart in the coming years on combustion
of their remaining fuel thereby multiplying the pieces of debris.


At some point, the growing population of orbiting debris increases
the likelihood that pieces will collide into each other, spawning
still more space junk.


The problem is especially acute at altitudes of between
900 and 1,000 kilometers.


SOURCE:
Space.com

Well, this is a problem I've honestly not given a great deal of thought.
To bad we don't have Phasers, than we could just vaporise it.

Comments, Opinions?




posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 04:23 PM
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I think that it is an extension of our race. Shows other beings what they are getting into before they even land. Typical human beings, we may be the most dangerous virus in the galaxy according to them.

[edit on 31-7-2006 by imbalanced]


jra

posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 05:29 PM
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A company dedicated to orbital clean-up is starting to sound like it could be a profitable business venture in the near future. Anyone feel like starting up a business with me?



posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 08:25 PM
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I'm not an expert, by any means, in a lot of the space stuff... Still though, the topic and this article is very intriguing. However, wouldn't a great deal of this "junk" fall through the atmosphere eventually and return to earth? I had to be careful to not say that it would be vaproized because, after all, they were designed to get through that very layer and thus they are now in space!


Do you think this is also going to start posing problems for other launches and even things already in orbit, like the International Space Station? Or is all of this taking place in a different layer or orbit?



posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 08:37 PM
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Originally posted by granoladude
I'm not an expert, by any means, in a lot of the space stuff... Still though, the topic and this article is very intriguing. However, wouldn't a great deal of this "junk" fall through the atmosphere eventually and return to earth? I had to be careful to not say that it would be vaproized because, after all, they were designed to get through that very layer and thus they are now in space!


Do you think this is also going to start posing problems for other launches and even things already in orbit, like the International Space Station? Or is all of this taking place in a different layer or orbit?


Yes, the orbit of the debris will eventually decay to the point where
it re-enters the atmosphere, but that time can is counted in decades
and centuries.

Actually alot would be vaporised, true some of the stuff up there was
meant for escape velocity, but not all of it was meant for re-entry,
and than you also have satelites that have ceased to work, and they
inside rockets, so they're not meant to survive the extreme heat,
and even some of the stuff built to survive re-enttry will vaporise,
simply because it's no longer in one piece and not as strong as
it used to be.

Yes, I do think this could eventually (not sure how long though) start
messing with launches.
Not sure about the ISS, I think it's in a higher orbit than most debris.



posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 08:43 PM
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yes, a vast majority will fall back to earth...But that would takes a long long time.

and the ISS moves to avoid objects.

1 rocket can leaves hundreds of small objects in space...some like a small screw, and others like a rockets engine.

This is a short term problem. One that wont really exist once we build a space elevator...but a more likely future spacecraft would be one scramjet powered...and everything that left the ground would go up...and come back down. With scramjets you wouldn't likely need to have rocket stage engines that get left up there...and things like that.

I think space Debris will continue to be on the rise for at least 15 years.



posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 08:49 PM
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It will eventually all fall back to earth (most of it burning up before it gets here). The ISS and shuttle operate around 300 km (not 900 to 1000 km). The debris is going the same direction (and velocity) as any object entering the same orbit, therefore it's not that big of a threat.

The ISS employs micro-meteor impact shields that help break up objects that hit it. The shields stand off from the actual hull of the ISS.



posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 08:56 PM
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A lot of this stuff is already posing a problem, and has been for some time. In fact, launches have to be planned around the orbit of this debris, which can cause some major complications. Luckily, due to great radar systems and just simple physics, they know where most of the stuff baseball sized and up is.

As Murcielago said, the ISS does move to avoid this stuff. So does the Shuttle, Hubble, Spitzer, comm sats, and everything else out there. Of course, a lot of that stuff only has limited amounts of fuel, and when it runs out, those sats are basically dead in the water until they can be serviced (which is usually unlikely), they hit enough crap up there to where they can no longer function, or they reenter the atmosphere.

Sure, some of it is going to fall to Earth. Some of the smaller things may even end up disintegrating as it reenters. Of course, that poses a whole other set of problems, as many of those sats are pretty massive, and not all of it will burn up. Remember when Skylab reentered? Parts of it ended up in Austrailia, to which NASA still needs to pay for their littering fines (I'm not kidding on that bit, either). Also, bits and pieces of Mir made it down to Earth when they burned that one up as well, though since it was more controlled, it all splashed down.



posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 10:50 PM
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Originally posted by Valhall
The ISS and shuttle operate around 300 km (not 900 to 1000 km).

actually its more around 400km.

and CMD...please tell me your avatar isn't about that movie "snakes on a plane"...That looks like one of the lamest movies ever concieved.



posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 10:53 PM
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Originally posted by Murcielago
and CMD...please tell me your avatar isn't about that movie "snakes on a plane"...That looks like one of the lamest movies ever concieved.


It is, and yes, it looks to be... It should be awesome!



posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 11:25 PM
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I knew someone 40 years ago whose job was to monitor space junk, and since then I've wondered sometimes about what must be a growing amount, so the article and this thread is a good read for me. Sounds like from Val there are shields, and from Murcielago and cmdrkeenkid objects can move (to a point) to avoid a collision. Sure is more difficult than avoiding an alligator in the road!
Now, I wonder, if this extra junk humans have put into space re-enters, if this happens frequently, something the size of a wrench or smaller say, is this taken into account when people report ufo's or unusual fireballs or meteors or...? Seems to me people might mistake falling debris for something else.

The above is serious, the below is not
"Dear, the travel agent said we'ld be served snacks on the flight."
"Call him back and ask if he meant snakes."



posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 11:53 PM
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Hey, do any of you know if some birds are packed with a little extra
hydrazine or anything to produce a de-orbit burn?



posted on Aug, 1 2006 @ 01:17 AM
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It wouldn't surprise me if a few had a little extra RP1 lying around if they were meant for temporary satellites or for long orbit stuff like Molniya orbits (old spy orbits). The problem is that atmo drag only acts so fast on things and with all the other interferences, it's not a fast process. You've also got J2, J3, and Lunisolar perturbations to worry about it, they're just going to screw up the orbits. Atmo drag is really only a factor in LEO, but most satellites are in LEO, go figure. I've got an image of a space debris cloud as it expands. Unfortunately it's only in a hard cover book that you won't find outside of a university probably, but I know the reference really well
.

By the way, I've heard the XM satellite is coming down. They ran out of stationkeeping fuel so it's toast.

I've been working on a project that could actually be used to make a "Space Vacuum Cleaner" (no pun intended). It's meant to slow payloads coming from the moon to put them in GEO, but it can have other uses. Ok, take a giant superconducting solenoid and put it in space (wow I wish I was kidding but this was my work for this summer). For all the little piecey parts you turn the thing on to attract space debris and other ferromagnetic materials you need done away with. The cool thing is its solar powered so you can gather, then fire out it railgun style to do stationkeeping. I wish, that would be so much cooler.



posted on Aug, 1 2006 @ 02:17 AM
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ya Ill start a space garbage clean up with ya !!
and not because you have the same bird in your avatar.



posted on Aug, 1 2006 @ 04:37 AM
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Not sure about the ISS, I think it's in a higher orbit than most debris.


ISS is in a lower orbit than most debris.



posted on Aug, 1 2006 @ 04:44 AM
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WTH??? I've got the perfect answer:

HELL BIG ELECTRO-MAGNETS!!



posted on Aug, 1 2006 @ 05:09 AM
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Originally posted by Murcielago

Originally posted by Valhall
The ISS and shuttle operate around 300 km (not 900 to 1000 km).

actually its more around 400km.



Yep - I did the whole "bounce the polar orbital off the Mars surface thingy" and quoted miles as kilometers.
Mine didn't cost as much though.



posted on Aug, 5 2006 @ 08:40 PM
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There is an "easy" way of getting it down. But it would kill almost everything...

If we increase the size of our atmosphere to about double what it is , it would create more drag on the items and they would all burn on the way down, or land somewhere. The problem with that is anything that can't stand the pressure of 2MPa (vs. our 1 MPa) will die from the change. Deep sea creatures and anything living in the oceans could survive, but anything that probably isn't a plant will die on land. But that would cure our space junk problem.

One of the problems with colonizing Mars is the low-orbiting moon of Phobos. If we create a large atmosphere that we need to support human life, the drag of the molecules on the moon will bring it crashing down to the mars surface, rendering it uninhabitale for a few centuries until the dust settles.


apc

posted on Aug, 6 2006 @ 12:13 PM
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Im fairly certain this one has already been solved for us... "It's MegaMaid! She's gone from suck to blow!"


Besides, this just gives us a need to fill. The need being deflector shields. We need them anyway for interplanetary travel, so what better place for development than in orbit?



posted on Aug, 2 2007 @ 10:57 PM
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The problem continues to grow... 2006 was the "dirtiest" year in space since 1993. This year? Likely worse, with more than a few "orbital adjustments" made to get clearance already... LEO is getting busy.

An article from the International Hearld Tribune that describes the more recent events NASA forced to steer clear of junk in cluttered space from July 31st 2007. It also gives a thumbnail sketch of the challenges.

NASA has recently shifted more emphasis to Orbital Debris Program Office consideration having the directorship split from the chief scientist post. They have a webpage and surprisingly frank quarterly updates in PDF format, the image gallery has some examples of damage. The NASA Orbital Debris Program Office homepage. It was pretty much gutted in 2002 and came back in 2004 and is now doing what it can.

Here's some shortcuts to the Quarterly PDF's for 2007 so far, some will find them of interest for the data, photos and plain talk of the risks.Q1, Q2 and Q3.

Some work is being done to carefully de-orbit objects, one success was the controlled re-entry of a Delta rocket from a moderate (well above LEO) satellite deployment that's detailed in one of the Quarterly Reports.

The other one I found most ingenious was for the recent jettison of the Early Ammonia Servicer by Clay Anderson from ISS which was done at a low altitude and following that they did their prescribed ISS boost "burn" to get back up to altitude for Progress 24 docking and Endeavour's arrival. The EAS is the size of a fridge and has a mass of about 1200 pounds, it will be de-orbiting for the next two years or so.

Most folks are aware of the Chinese A-Sat detonations but there are other events of kinetic-collisions and something I'd not thought a problem; the NaK from coolant and reactant spills - the "drops" are everywhere.

At the recent House Science and Technology Committee hearings concerning ISS/STS status, Tommy Holloway (Taskforce member) and others made some observations very clear, I paraphrase one sample:

"Micrometeoroid and orbital debris penetrating the living quarters or damaging critical equipment is a high safety risk to the crew and the Station."

If one reads more about the likelihood of catastrophic impact one finds that the risk is not so much from the items being tracked (10 cm) and the software estimated "debris clouds" of smaller bits but more from objects far more plentiful and untracked in the size area of >1cm.

Collisions have happened in the last year, some catastrophic and unmanned, and some have occurred on ISS which were noted by Kotov and Commander Yurchikin a month or two ago.

They really are doing everything possible from Space Command to Astronomers to software people... it would appear that the situation isn't getting better any time soon. Gravity doesn't care how messy we are, we should.

Vic

[edit on 2-8-2007 by V Kaminski]



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