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Response to silverweb (Reply #4)

Fri Oct 16, 2020, 09:11 AM

5. The space junk should eventually be burned up in Earth's orbit

Earth's atmosphere doesn't have a hard boundary with space, it just sort of fades into almost-nothingness as you rise from the ground to space.

So all the little bits of stuff are, gradually, being de-orbited by tiny amounts of drag operating over months or years.

The problem, I guess, is that we keep renewing the inventory of junk each time we launch a rocket.

This is a problem that I really can't think of a good answer to. The velocities can be incredibly high, so you can't just put out a big net and catch things. A lot of components are made of stuff other than steel, so they are unaffected by magnetism. You've got billions of cubic yards to worry about and no good way to police it.

I mean, I guess I could see them having some sort of automatic hunter-killer satellite in orbit with a laser on it and a high-definition radar system, and it would automatically zap anything that was smaller than, say, a dishwasher. So maybe it could vaporize the smaller bits.

And maybe it could be set to fire at things only if doing so would slow its orbital velocity, making it burn up in the atmosphere sooner. But I sense the idea would be expensive and ineffective. I know the Air Force and Navy are working on weapons-grade lasers but I have no idea if they have one that could be up in space for years at a time without maintenance.

And okay, maybe it doesn't need to be a laser that can vaporize something. Maybe just a laser that can just be shined on debris so the photon impacts will slow it down so it de-orbits faster. But light pressure is a very weak force, so I doubt that would work.

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CloudWatcher Oct 2020 OP
underpants Oct 2020 #1
silverweb Oct 2020 #2
CloudWatcher Oct 2020 #3
silverweb Oct 2020 #4
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krispos42 Oct 2020 #5
silverweb Oct 2020 #6
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