Space Debris : Low Earth Orbit

1032 WordsJan 26, 20175 Pages
Thomas Kern ESS102 Research Paper Space Debris in Low Earth Orbit An unfortunate consequence of man exploring off planet has been the steady growth of junk from derelict and unused spacecraft. According to NASA there are over half a million pieces of junk in low earth orbit. Because these pieces of junk travel at orbital speeds of around 17,500 miles per hour, they posses tremendous amounts of energy and are capable of doing substantial damage (NASA). Most of the dangerous hard to track debris comes from collisions (NASA). When old satellites are allowed to orbit on a collision free path they are relatively easy to track, and avoid. However, problems arise once these satellites are involved in collisions. Collisions can break apart…show more content…
A variety of techniques are being developed to try and put this principle into use, for constructing all sorts of things in low earth orbit. A proposed method of recycling satellites is to tow old satellites out to mars where the materials could be used by future colonies. Tom Markusic CEO of startup firefly systems, has a plan to do just that (Howell). Firefly systems plans to use solar powered craft to slowly and efficiently move things from earths orbit to mars. Once there they could be broken down by colonists in orbit for their nuts bolts and various other components (Howell). This could actually create a much needed market for supplies if space travel becomes commercialized. If part is needed part way through a mission and it can be found on a derelict satellite, Tom Markusic’s company could be the missing link that could retrieve a bolt or solar panel and bring it to whoever needs it eliminating the need for an expensive launch from the earths surface. Another potential way of recycling space craft is increasing their longevity. Often times only a single component fails taking down all of a satellite’s systems. If they are designed modularly then satellites would only require a simple part replacement to be working again. DARPA is currently researching a craft that would dock with satellites, assess damage, and potential make repairs (Howell). Having
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