Boeing engineers offer to blow space debris out of orbit

    According to NASA , in the near-Earth space today flies more than 21,000 debris larger than 10 centimeters, about 500,000 - from 1 to 10 centimeters and more than 100,000,000 garbage particles less than 1 centimeter. This orbital dump represents an increasing danger to spacecraft. So, one of the pessimistic scenarios for the development of the situation, the so-called Kessler syndrome , an uncontrolled chain reaction: the collision of two fairly large objects leads to a sharp increase in the concentration of fragments, as a result of which several more satellites are destroyed and the number of fragments grows exponentially, making near-Earth space in general unsuitable for flying.

    Orbital debris growth from 1960 to 2009

    Collision with the shell of only a few centimeters, rushing at a speed of almost 10 kilometers per second, can damage even a well-protected device. The “armor” covering the vital compartments of satellites and space stations can withstand objects only about a centimeter in diameter. To evade larger debris, one has to maneuver - for example, the ISS performs an evasion maneuver about once a year.

    The main direction in which space debris engineers work is to create cleaning satellites that will capture and dump debris or powerful lasers into the atmosphere that will burn or slow them down. Boeing offers an elegant and unexpected solution. Their patent describes a cleaning using a cloud of gas sprayed in a certain place near Earth at a precisely calculated time. The diameter of the cloud will be from 50 to 500 kilometers. It will last only a few minutes, but this will be enough to slow down the shells that have got into it by several hundred meters per second, so that they quickly go out of orbit and burn out.

    The cloud itself will plunge back into the atmosphere, leaving no trace of its existence. Although the mass of gas required to atomize such a cloud will be from 1 to 10 tons, launching an apparatus spraying gas to a height of several hundred kilometers will be cheaper than launching a satellite of the same mass, since it does not have to accelerate to the first space speed. It will be enough only for a few minutes to emerge from the atmosphere.

    Blowing off debris from orbit can be a great addition to the satellite cleaner method, which is better suited for large debris. A gas cloud inhibits all debris that has fallen into it, regardless of size.

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