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Disposable Debris Collector Sat.

A disposable satellite to reduce orbital debris.
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Consider a small satellite comprised of essenitally a hollow cylindrical body, closed on one end, and a simple thrust vectoring system for mobility. The cylinder is filled with an increasingly dense gradient of what amounts to clay or some sort of self-healing ballistic gel. The densest material would lie on the closed end, with the less dense, self healing material near the open end. After being released into an Earth orbit of your choosing, the satellite uses a combination of GPS and radio signals broadcast from ground stations to manouver into an orbit in front of a piece of orbital junk at a relatively similar, though slower velocity. Result, space junk enters open end of sat. at a reasonable velocity, penetrates into the ballistic gel, and is trapped. The ballistic gel heals over the wound caused by capturing the piece of debris, and the satellite moves on to next piece of junk.

NASA tracks anything larger than a softball, so it is reasonable to consider such a satellite remaining in orbit for some time to catching various pieces of orbital debris. If properly constructed (i.e. few heavy metals and other really hard to burn off materials), the sat. could simply be instructed to re-enter the atmosphere and safely and completely burn up over the ocean, along with it's payload of junk.

If you are really anal about tracking position of the sat. vs. oncoming junk you could give the sat. other devices such as LIDAR or some form of radar and computer aided thrust control to help posisition it properly, as well as make it's fuel supply refillable to facilitate longer orbital periods.

Reverend_Cobol, Oct 31 2003

Off Topic Link for [half] http://startrek.epguides.info/?ID=455
Voyager episode 17, "The 37's" fits the bill. [Laughs Last, Oct 05 2004]

Shameless elf-promotion http://www.halfbake...om/idea/Space_20Jam
Protection of satellites using a similar idea. [RayfordSteele, Oct 05 2004]

How to find cool spaceships and junk: http://science.nasa...ck/3D/JTrack3D.html
JTrack 3D, a realtime Java applet, with some impressive features. [Amos Kito, Oct 05 2004]

[link]






       astral dustpan and brush?
po, Oct 31 2003
  

       The vacuum of space?
half, Oct 31 2003
  

       (slightly off topic and not nearly as serious as RC's proposal) Wasn't there a big space junk eater in an episode of the original Star Trek series?   

       (slightly more on topic) If the approximate mass and velocity of each piece of junk is known, it's energy could be used to help propel this device in to position for it's next capture thus possibly reducing the needed fuel supply.
half, Oct 31 2003
  

       Yeah, spider webs in space. I think you'd need thrust to get the gel to "heal".
phoenix, Oct 31 2003
  

       I propose covering the moon with double-sided tape. Then occasionaly retireve the usable metals, minerals and such to suppliment earthly resources ... one space's junk is another space's treasure
Letsbuildafort, Oct 31 2003
  
      
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