9 thoughts on “The Orbital Debris Problem”

  1. The elephant in the room that no one ever seemed to want to talk about in the Small Sat Revolution.

    My sci-fi solution is enormous whipped-dozers in a polar orbit that will over time “clear” a particular altitude.

  2. Starlink flies in a fairly narrow operational band, it probably wouldn’t take much to disrupt this with enough retro-grade debris there.

    This wouldn’t close down orbits below it, but it could present a problem for spacecraft attempting to transit through it.

    OTOH aerogel seems to be the likely candidate to clear orbits. Might take awhile but doable. Has this tech been demonstrated yet?

  3. My solution was a pulsed laser to deorbit fragments by using the deflagration to decelerate the debris into lower orbit and eventually the atmosphere. Time consuming but doable,

  4. I’m not convinced that orbital debris is that big of a problem. Collisions of large objects are fairly rare. Modern satellite constellations are maneuverable and so pose a considerably smaller risk of collision. Simple regulations requiring deorbit within five years of launch will help prevent the buildup of inactive objects like what has happened back in the 20th century. That said, we (i.e. they) do need to stop stupid anti-satellite tests. These have done the most to increase debris in recent decades. But apart from rare events, the debris growth rate has been decreasing. https://images.app.goo.gl/XKcDCsnXwzQ5hUoV9

    1. The whole cascade thing remains a fantasy used by its creator to maintain his career, and illustrated by false images, much like the “loss of the night sky” astronomy propaganda. The ratio between fragments and the volume of used LEO is significant. And the problem isn’t large debris (more than 1cm), it’s tiny flakes of this and that. ISS has had a number of strikes (solar panel, RMS, and now MS-22) that were unseen by radar and not felt at the time of impact. ISS will never be hit by a dead satellite because it’s dirigible and can get out of the way of anything it can see.

      I agree about stupid asat tests. But I also think if terrestrial governments had done their job instead of wasting money on Progress and Neocon hubris projects, LEO megaconstellations would be unnecessary. How much would it have cost to mandate T-1 run to every pole in the US? Or even just coax. I’m lucky we got DSL a few years back. Before that it was HughesNet or nothing.

      1. I had DirecPC, the 1way predecessor to HughesNet operating in the only sane way possible using the Helius satellite router software to drive the satellite receiver card and present the Linux box it ran in as a router on my LAN. That was before my road was wired with fiber for Comcast. Been on cable ever since. Now I’m considering Starlink.

  5. In “Fellow Traveler” I posited launching large amounts of gravel into LEO, a weapon SDI called “Barney Rubble” (it required that the reader know about “Brilliant Pebbles” though…).

      1. I think Flinstones reruns were still on the air in 1991 (my son was still in HS back then, but we were more into Dr. Who and the like). By now there’s probably a woke remake of Flintstones. I can’t make myself check. I understand Dr. Who was long ago ruined.

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