Reply to post: Big problem with limited solutions

Clean up orbit first, then we can think about space factories, says FCC

jmch Silver badge
Boffin

Big problem with limited solutions

'Cleaning up the orbit' is all well and good to say, but how do you clear 100 million pieces of 1mm-size debris, not to mention however many more smaller ones?? Can't vacuum them up, catch them in nets, can't even locate them, and to catch them you have to match their speed even if you could find them (which, for the smaller ones, you anyway can't).

My wacky idea is some sort of high-expansion quick-setting foam - spray it from a small can into a large blob and push it into a slow-ish orbit on the path you want to clear. The idea is that the relative speed of debris is small enough that it won't punch through but get trapped inside, and the slow-ish orbit means it will eventually de-orbit itself (or the large size means it can be externally manipulated). That sort of assumes that most objects are orbiting in the same direction (which is mostly the case for parent satellites so should mostly be the same for debris).

Of course, space is Huuuuge, even just the narrow shell of the useful orbital plane, but given that rocketeers can insert a satellite into a very precise orbital position, whose launch, trajectory etc are probably known years in advance, it should be possible to clear the path from some of the debris ahead of the satellite's launch

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