Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Shotguns in space

  (+8, -3)
(+8, -3)
  [vote for,

That dang space trash. Now the folks in the space station have to duck and cover when a half-inch motor fragment traipses by. But the space station is big, and manned. Occasionally womanned! The astronauts and cosmonauts could fight back!

I propose that shotguns be mounted outside the space station, and also be kept available in interior cabinets. Clearly the vicinity of the station is monitored closely from the ground if they saw that little rocket motor on the way. When the space station draws near to some space trash, or vice verso, it is open season on space trash. The astronauts could do some shooting themselves, or it could be automatic shotgun robots. The shotguns would be nice cheap shotguns from Walmart, but would fire shells containing plastic pellets that break down in sunlight, just in case a few of those stay in orbit.

A load of plastic birdshot or 3 might convince some of that space trash to head south and burn up in the atmosphere. You might have to lead the space trash a bit, since I gather it moves fast.

bungston, Mar 12 2009

Space trash causing trouble http://www.google.c...53XYFEI9pQD96SPETG0
Boom Ya! Bye bye rocket motor trash! [bungston, Mar 12 2009]

Aegis http://en.wikipedia...Aegis_combat_system
A ship-based robot which identifies and shoots fast moving incmong objects like missiles. [bungston, Mar 13 2009]

Space junk travails http://www.google.c...IuPU75dJeAD9AGJUD80
[bungston, Sep 04 2009]

Vortex cannon http://labs.systemo...S9pbWcvaGMuZ2lm.gif
Gas-only gun. There would be no vortex in space. A hand-held one could resemble a blunderbuss, for steam-punk coolth. [spidermother, Sep 05 2009]

Space debris scene from Gravity https://www.youtube...watch?v=prlIhY3e04k
[bungston, Feb 21 2017]

Taking the bread out of the mouths of hard working people ... Near_20Earth_20Orbi...ation_20Corporation
[normzone, Feb 21 2017]

Homeopathic mercury http://www.britishh...cine-a-z/mercurius/
[bungston, Feb 21 2017]


       Watch that recoil Bob. Bob?..........
simonj, Mar 12 2009

       Sounds fun but I think 'moves fast' is an understatement.   

       //I have a question of ballistics...// Newton's third law applies. The equation for conservation of momentum shall be invoked.   

       massA x velocityA = massB x velocityB   

       where A is plastic pellets and B is space station.   

       massA = 10 grams? (plastic)   

       velocityA = 300ft/s = 91440 mm/s   

       massB = 227 267 kg   

       Solving, Velocity of space station (due to shotgun blast) is..... 0.004mm/s... or 1.45 cm/hour.
knowtion, Mar 13 2009

       I would just wait for a target to appear on the other side of the station.
knowtion, Mar 13 2009

       Really this concept is similar to the Aegis system for ocean ships, except halfbaked with shotguns and plastic shot. An Aegis-type system might really be an answer for space trash. I would think that irregular-shaped metallic space trash would be very evident to radar, especially in space. The Aegis is designed to track and shoot down fast moving objects like missiles. Space trash is faster but the principle should be the same. One could have an Aegis satellite or mount one on the space station. I would think the Aegis would deliver a little more kick than a shotgun but maybe not - maybe it is recoilless.   

       But the way, thank you for the math, knowtion. Some formulas make everything feel so legit.
bungston, Mar 13 2009

       //would be extreme overkill for small but fast-moving spacetrash//   

       Yes please. [+]
shapu, Mar 13 2009

       I like the idea of the pellets degrading in the sun.   

       The actual idea will not work, though. Either the thing is in range of a shotgun, then it will reach the station while in the process of being destroyed by the pellet, i.e. still mostly intact.   

       Same applies to high-powered lasers - for SDI or its siblings it only works (...or could, some day, perhaps...) because the rockets fuel detonates, or the warhead loses stability and flies apart under the stress of reentry - for debris, the destructive power of which is only in its' inertia, this does not apply.
loonquawl, Mar 16 2009

       Shotguns have very long ranges in space. When shooting a shotgun, on earth or in space, It is possible to shoot something that is near but that, if you miss it, will not bash into you. An example is skeet shooting and I am sure you can find someone willing to help you learn this firsthand, [loonquawl]. Arguably skeet would more more exciting if the clay pigeons were launched right at you but that is an idea for another day. I think maybe water balloons would be more fun in that context. Those clay pigeons are splintery. Don't let the hogs eat them!   

       Where were we? Yes: loonquawl. This idea would not work as well for things on track to hit the space station, although as the thing got closer and closer the robots could blaze away at it. But the space station probably passes within several hundred miles of space junk all the time and could shoot the trash in passing. A dedicated cleanup satellite could tweak its orbit around to make sure that it passed through trashy regions. Other nations might get sweaty were the US to launch an AEGIS trashsweeper satellite because it could also clean up nontrash satellites.   

       The shotgun is better than the laser. A laser hits or doesnt hit. The point of a shotgun anywhere is to increase your hit zone. Impacting pellets would impart energy and hopefully destabilize the orbit of the trash so it would burn up in the atmosphere.   

       Re AEGIS - I had in my mind that those things fired a hail of metal bullets at incoming missiles, not an exploding round - again a shotgun like approach to compensate for the difficulty of precisely nailing a past moving object. But the idea of tracking and firing to intercept would be the same.
bungston, Mar 16 2009

       //So nothing a little corrective action from the attitude thrusters couldn't fix then?//   

       Just turn it around and fire in the opposite direction. Go one more step and replace all spacecraft thrusters with robotic shotguns.
Laughs Last, Mar 16 2009

       [Laughs], I think you should do a pilot project to demonstrate feasibility. You could stand on a plank mounted with castor wheels in the parking lot of an abandoned Kmart and propel yourself about using shotguns. Remember, blanks get the job done too. If it works well you could adapt the approach for field hockey.   

       Alternatively you could hang upside-down from a bridge and time your shotgun blasts so as to swing yourself up and onto the bridge. It may take several shots so practice reloading while in motion. This would be more visually impressive if you are up to it.
bungston, Mar 16 2009

       Would a shotgun fire in space? Doesn't it need oxygen to combust the explosive?
tatterdemalion, Mar 16 2009

       [bugston]: i didn't get the drive-by-shooting angle of the idea. That ameliorates the idea a bit. It still remains problematic. Shotguns impart enough structural damage to small animals or skeets with one of the pellets to warrant losing the other 99. The kinectic energy transfer of a plastic bauble hitting space junk should not be as efficient. Kinetic weapons need mass and velocity. Velocity can be achieved by energy, which in turn is free-for-all via solar panels; mass has to be brought into orbit at high cost.   

       acually, the thrusters already are the shotguns you dream of: High muzzle velocity, billions of pellets (molecules) - So how about timing scheduled corrective maneuvers so the thrusters punch some trash out of orbit?
loonquawl, Mar 17 2009

       loonquawl, what about the mass of the solar panels?
eight_nine_tortoise, Mar 17 2009

       While we're doing mass/velocity calculations, what are the effects of a light plastic pellet on a massy piece of metal traveling at (really really really) high speed?
Noexit, Mar 17 2009

       The pellets could be made heavier by filling them with water. The effect on the space trash is a vector problem. I bet a lot of the space trash is small stuff.
bungston, Mar 18 2009

       My first idea on the 'bakery was for intelligent rockets that would synch orbit with a piece of space debris, attach to it and then fall into the atmosphere with a retro burn.   

       It was shot full of holes and then I deleted it.
neelandan, Mar 18 2009

       It seems a shame for an intelligent rocket to have to do a kamikaze for one worthless motor fragment. But I can see that there would be concerns about the rockets developing culture and turning against us, sort of like the replicants in Bladerunner, but rocket powered.   

       I was thinking about using the jets on the shuttle. The problem is they really will move the shuttle. A recoilless shotgun (or custom designed recoilles weapon) would be less of a problem. Also I am not sure what sort of shape a plume of gas takes in space. I would think it would be hard to keep it coherent en route to the incoming space trash.
bungston, Mar 18 2009

       Now here is the real solution: instead of puny plastic pellets, fire frozen astronaut and cosmonaut poop to collide with space trash. You could fire the poop with very precise slingshots since the relative velocity of poop to trash will be great regardless of what sort of acceleration the poop gets out of the space station. Plus something needs to be done with the poop. I imagine currently they must collect it and pack it all back to earth.
bungston, Mar 18 2009

       I imagine they are fed a liquid diet that minimises solid waste. Just my imagination, sure to be wrong.
neelandan, Mar 19 2009

       Hey - there is an idea - use it for rocket propellant.   

       Sure puts a new meaning on the term "solid fuelled rocket booster".
neelandan, Mar 19 2009

       The pellets will have to break down quite quickly - within one orbit. Otherwise, you'll meet them next time around, shirley?
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 04 2009

       I'd go with a gas only gun; the result will be less hit and miss, and less likely to cause the junk to break up or move into a new, unpredictable orbit. My guess is that gas would impart its momentum about as well as plastic, so you are better off carrying extra propellent (gunpowder) into space rather than plastic pellets.   

       The spread of gas will, of course, be related to muzzle velocity and components normal to the line of fire, such as the temperature-related expansion of the gas, which are beyond my ability to calculate precisely.   

       You haven't said how the rocking-chair will work in free fall. Magnets? Springs?
spidermother, Sep 05 2009

       "Recollless" weapons have been around since the early 20th century, so no real problem designing one for this application.   

       As to projectiles - for once, ice might be the answer. It would sublime away quite fast in sunlight. And there's a ready source of "yellow ice" from the human occupants of the station.   

       A gas jet will diffuse and dissipate too fast to have any realistic effect on an incoming itemn of debris.
8th of 7, Sep 05 2009

       How about something like one of those riot control net guns? Firing one of them would give you a greater chance of hitting the target and transferring all the kinetic energy of the charge to the debris object. And in space, you don't have to worry about air resistance, so your projectile can be any arbitrary shape and size.
BunsenHoneydew, Sep 06 2009

       Thinking about this again. Ice sublimates in the sun but I think mercury does too, and it is more massive. I like plastic pellets full of mercury. The plastic will go quick in hard UV and then the mercury will sublimate into molecules and cause no further problems.   

       Also for purposes of defending your satellite, all you need to do is change debris off of a collision course.   

       The space debris scene from Gravity is outstanding; linked. Think how cool it would be to have the AEGIS shotgun robots blazing away as the debris came in.
bungston, Feb 21 2017

       MHWHAHAHAHA !   


       // mercury will sublimate into molecules and cause no further problems //   

       Uh-huh ?   

       It's freefall, it's NOT zero gravity. Those mercury atoms are, ever so slowly, going to get dragged down into the upper atmosphere, then down into the lower atmosphere ...
8th of 7, Feb 21 2017

       /dragged down/   

       I assert that the immense dilution of the mercury molecules together with the potentization effected by space debris collisions will in fact result in a homeopathic effect on the earths surface, remedying all the things homeopathically prepared mercury is known to remedy. Linked, for those unfamiliar.
bungston, Feb 21 2017


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