Harmless Mostly Harmless
Three quarters of the orbital debris floating among satellites in geosynchronous orbits around Earth is not being tracked, an astronomical survey has revealed. The small bits of space junk identified by the study are often overlooked; they’re faint, small, and in a region that’s monitored less intensively than low-Earth orbit …
If there was some way to monetise or add value to space junk, someone will find a way to get the stuff. Considering the potential cost of damaging funtional space craft there must be a value to collecting or dumping the stuff into atmosphere, it's a case of balancing cost and benefit.
Perhaps Muskie can develop a reusable space going scrap barge.
I'm not going to downvote you but/because you probably don't know that pikie is a racial slur. You wouldn't use any other racial slur in a post, I know because I read your posts here.
I clicked on this to make a joke about dangerous dumping near me but that's always respectable white people dumping white goods. I know because I caught them using a drone, footage of which I passed to the council. The council said it was illegal for me to use a drone within 50m of a person, but the dumpers weren't there when it started!
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Up to. Yes. But the distribution of the orbits (and relative speeds) and hence average threat is likely to be significantly different to the situation in e.g. LEO.
Of course, even the average threat might be significant. I personally wouldn't like a bullet hit at 0.4 km/s any more than 4 km/s. (Well I might learn to appreciate the slower speed afterwards depending on where it hit but you know what I mean.)
> The team used the Isaac Newton Telescope in the Canary Islands to detect the space junk
They'd better do it quickly, before endless sheets of Internet satellites make terrestrial telescope observations near impossible...
(Yes, yes, I know, Hubble could so such a fine job at it since it's just a few kilometers below geosynchronous orbit. Just send an ultra-wide-angle lens up to it, preferably of the clip-on variety. /s)
If it was, it would maintain the same relative position over the Earth, just like GSO satellites do. OK, it isn't exactly fixed since the Earth isn't exactly a sphere, they do little figure 8s over a range of a few miles. But if there is debris at say 90W it would only ever potentially affect satellites assigned to 90W and even then only if their figure 8 bounding boxes overlapped.
Only debris in a somewhat elliptical orbit so it can cross the GSO plane in different spots is of true concern, since it could potentially affect any satellite over any spot in the world if it happens to cross the GSO plane at the wrong time.
Not true. Geostationary satellites have to perform station-keeping manouevres to maintain their figure-8 box. Older satellites are often allowed to develop inclined orbits, which from the ground appear to oscillate above and below the equator. This saves fuel but can be tracked by suitable ground stations, and allows the satellites to communicate with ground stations in polar latitudes which are usually out of sight. Such debris would periodically cross the bounding box of a satellite on station at GEO.
Any event which creates debris is also likely to impart energy which would cause the debris to drift east or west around GEO, potentially affecting other orbital positions. Look up Galaxy 15, a rogue Intelsat bird which drifted around the belt for several months in 2010: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaxy_15.
There is a very well written portrait of Donald Kessler in The New Yorker just now. Unfortunately they've stuffed it into a terrible web design.
[Off topic but the New York Times currently has the best designed web article just now, a portrait of Albrecht Dürer, the inventor of the selfie]
Considering that in not quite 60 years mankind has increasingly filled up Earth orbit with dangerous debris. It's both a case of people using orbital space as a commons, so they don't take responsibility for maintaining it or using it wisely. That, plus the "chicken and egg" problem that relying on chemical rockets, we don't have an efficient way to launch things into orbit, so between that and general costs we launch satellites that are as light as possible, and there is no economical way to launch missions to clean up orbital debris. As you can see from the article, the lightly constructed satellites break up more readily, so they shed more debris, which cause more danger of structural damage to still more lightly constructed satellites, and so on, and so on.
I have NO idea what it will be, but we need a way to get out of Earth's gravity well much more efficiently than chemical rockets. Until then, we are going to keep putting more junk into orbit than we can remove from orbit.
I fully agree with your gist ("Not in my Low Earth Orbit!) but it's actually the biggest objects that are the greatest risk and the priority to clean up - just because their collisions make much more debris.
> "We clearly need to build an orbital tower."
I assume you mean an orbital tower with space elevator? It's a fine idea, that will never happen.
Even assuming it could be physically built (extremely unlikely) when the risk of it breaking leads to it whipping around the earth, destroying everything it collides with, it will never be acceptable.
The problem isn't chemical rockets, it's the single-use paradigm which throws waste into space and makes launch incredibly expensive.
Hopefully, SpaceX is paving the way for reusable launchers which will make launches less messy and make it cheap enough to put debris-recovery systems into orbit. Of course, they'll also make it easier to put more crap into orbit...
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