It’s ok we’ve done it before.
3 tons of it is ok. So my phone battery may be left to decompose in the same Earth’s atmosphere. Got it.
The most massive chunk of junk yet was just ejected from the International Space Station – though, don’t worry, the 2.9-ton crate containing old batteries shouldn’t be too much of a nuisance. It is expected to harmlessly burn up in Earth’s atmosphere two to four years from now. Low-earth orbit is getting more and more crowded …
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"I was thinking it might have been slightly safer to break them up into their component cells (or at least smaller clusters) and then propel them slightly so they reached the atmosphere sooner. It's only a couple of hundred km to the atmosphere, after all."
They're already touching enough atmosphere to experience drag (the only have something like 400km to the surface) . Smaller clusters would be harder to track (and may decay slower, idk). Breaking them down is a nontrivial task, especially in orbit, especially if the pack was not explicitly designed for disassembly.
Will they disintegrate because the batteries will combust when the hit the atmosphere?
Apparently, a lot of the Space Shuttle Columbia made it back to earth. For example, some large engines, and
"The BRIC-14 (moss growth experiment) and BRIC-60 (Caenorhabditis elegans ringworm experiment) samples were found intact in the debris field within a 12 mile radius in east Texas. 80-87% of these live organisms survived the catastrophe. The moss and ringworms experiments' original primary mission was not nominal due to the lack of having the samples immediately after landing in its original state (they were discovered many months after the crash), but these samples helped the scientific community greatly in the field of astrobiology and helped form new theories about microorganisms surviving a long trip in outer space while traveling on meteorites or asteroids."
>Pretty sure that at the temperature of re-entry, any dioxin produced won't last very long.
Temperature is only high for the front of solid heavy objects hitting serious ram pressure heating.
The inside of meteorites arrive at the surface still deeply frozen.
Gases leaking out of heated batteries and then dispersing into the ultra-rarifed upper atmosphere aren't likely to be affected much. Then worry that chemistry of the upper atmosphere is complicated with very small amounts of some vital molecules spread very thinly.
Remember it didn't take very much mass of CFCs to destroy a layer of Ozone. You can't just say 'the entire mass of the atmosphere is massive so a few 100kg of X can't do any harm" - and then disperse that X into a very thin layer of upper atmosphere.
More likely to release organics like PCBs/dioxins from the pack being burnt, but incineration at re-entry temps will be hot enough to crack most of the toxic species. It's not a controlled environment so I'd expect at least a minor percentage of nasty stuff to get spread in the atmosphere, but it's still the best (or least worst) solution.
Lifting a re-entry vehicle into orbit to bring back something that weighs 3 tons and then recycle it isn't good math. You are better off not bringing it back and using the resources you'd waste cleaning up pollution somewhere else(like the local landfill or trash incinerator). Doubly so if it's burning UDMH and NTO to do it. Spread out through the atmosphere it's hardly going to make a blip. If the batteries were made from pure Sr-90 I'd have a very different take, but they aren't. If fact the NI-H2 cells are made up by mass from stuff that is fairly innocuous, eg Metal, metallic hydroxides, etc.
Wouldn't loose too much sleep over this one. A lot more of worse things will have burned up in the atmosphere due to natural dust and meteor activity in the next 4 years.
"apple core out of the car window... "
...not a problem at all, as long as it's tosssd into a grass verge / ditch etc where it can nicely biodegrade.
OTOH, the number of people I've seen throw cigarette butts and other actual rubbish straight out of the car window.... GRRRRR
Soyuz can land three humanoids and 150kg.
Cargo Dragon is currently the only vehicle capable of bringing large items back down in one piece. Its total payload return capacity is 3000kg, - but it has to fit through the hatch.
So they could perhaps bring it down if they brought it into a pressurised part of the station, dismantled it, and used almost the entire return capacity of a Cargo Dragon.
That's three very big nopes. Simply bringing it into a pressurised environment could cause it to catch fire...
Shove the garbage in the trunk - which is done already. That's jettisoned just before reentry
All the small stuff is already disposed of this way because dumping small items would be an untrackable debris hazard
This pallet is big enough to track - and despite taking a couple of years to come down it's still unlikely to cause anyone to need to manouevre to dodge it
It'd be nice to have a "stick on" cubesat and ion drive to deorbit sich things faster though
"...to deorbit sich things faster though"
It does make me wonder why it takes so long to deorbit. Are they just conjuring up some work to do for a family member for a coupla years? Can't you *shoot the thing a little more directly and burn it up a little faster?
"Why is this being taken back down...."
because rare earths, aren't
Nor are they particularly valuable or even hard to extract - the problem with rare earth mining is the amount of THORIUM that piles up - If Nixon hadn't killed ORL MSRE further development proposals in 1972 these would be thorium mines with a rare earth side gig
(Reminder: MSRE (salt loop) is not MSR (sodium loop). Salts don't burn easily and don't go far if they cool (and these ones don't mix with water). Getting water out of nuclear power would have been a Nucomen-->Diesel engine change and moving to thorium divorces nuclear power from dependence on weaponsmaking - 3% fuel is a byproduct of bombmaking, where what the warmongers WANT is depleted uranium to make bomb-grade plutonium and H-bomb casings out of. (All those protests around nuclear plant gates miss the real villain in the piece - that the weaponisation already happened before the reactor was even fired up)
As mentioned, Soyuz doesn't have enough payload to return the batteries to Earth - even if you could get them through the hatch.
This disposal was actually caused by a series of events going back to the 2018 failed Soyuz launch which saw three cosmonauts make an emergency abort. That led to a series of delays to spacewalks replacing nickel batteries with lithium batteries.
Meanwhile, Japan had been delivering shiny new batteries on a series of HTV cargo vessels with the old batteries being put on the vessels and allowed to burn up when they re-entered. Japan is currently building the HTV-X which isn't ready for flight so there is a gap in available vehicles going for disposal, so they chucked these batteries over the side.
Assuming the cargo containers that routinely get burned up have some fuel left to de-orbit, why didn't they attach the pallet to the next container and accelerate the de-orbit...?
Appreciate it would require some kind of rigid custom bracket to send up first (thrust line, centre of gravity, etc, etc)...
Or do the cargo containers also take a long time to de-orbit...?
On that topic, how about a clockwork lightsail that would unfurl during half of every orbit to increase drag...? Even if that made the orbit elliptical, it could touch the high atmosphere earlier...
Just thinking aloud and realising I don't have a clue or the time to take up KSP...!
This, recruits, is a 20-kilo ferrous slug. Feel the weight! Every five seconds, the main gun of an Everest-class Dreadnought accelerates one to 1.3 percent of light speed. It impacts with the force of a 38-kiloton bomb. That is three times the yield of the city buster dropped on Hiroshima back on Earth.
That means: Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son-of-a-bitch in space! (...) I dare to assume you ignorant jackasses know that space is empty! Once you fire this hunk of metal, it keeps going 'till it hits something! That can be a ship, or the planet behind that ship.
It might go off into deep space and hit somebody else in ten thousand years. If you pull the trigger on this, you are ruining someone's day, somewhere and sometime!"
At the edge of the frame, naturally XD
Any directed-energy weapon widens and becomes mostly harmless once sufficiently far away, as the intent will be to focus onto the smallest possible point at the enemy shield or hull, while being produced over the largest possible area of your own vessel so you don't melt yourself while vapourising the enemy.
Remember the promises around Skylab when that did it's totally uncontrolled re-entry? No risk at all.
The size of the chunks that hit the planet would not have been harmless had they impacted in a populated area.
Given batteries tendency to conflagrate in a totally unpredictable way I don't trust that NASA can predict with certainty what's going to happen. They are probably just working on the same principal as they did with Skylab. If it does rain burning lithium on the earth then the odds of it hitting anybody will be pretty slim.
Trouble with that approach is that, if they can be unbolted that easily, they'd have the new ones off the outside of the station as well.
Also, once you've attracted that attention, there's a bloke on Deimos gives a good price on solar panels and doesn't ask any difficult questions about where you got 'em.