Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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"Paper or Plastic" Satellites

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Tomorrow, February 20, '08, the U.S. plans to launch a $40M dollar self destructing missle to 'hopefully' destroy a wayward spy satellite that's been adrift (in an orbit, go figure) for some time now.

If they miss, then it's another $20M for an extra ball to whack the never before used machinery. Guess they never thought of self-destruct features for satellites.

Isn't that idea sort of - baked?? Remember that dead beached whale that they took so many tons of TNT to back in the 70's?

How's about building satellites (ominously looming overhead) out of materials that are combustable at a certain degree, and become fully consumed upon re-entry?

It's better than having whale parts all over your front lawn, or whatever else (hydrazine) happens to be in its guts!

Macdaddyx1, Feb 19 2008

Whale sign.. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23240631/
[Macdaddyx1, Feb 19 2008]

Task of Shooting Down Satellite Begins http://www.nytimes....0cnd-satellite.html
“This is about reducing the risk to human life on Earth — nothing more". In other news, the high-grade explosives intended to destroy the satellite will be carried by a swarm of flying pigs. [jutta, Feb 20 2008]

Flash Paper http://www.penguinm.../product.php?ID=197
One of my favorite things. It vanishes in a flash. [Amos Kito, Feb 21 2008]


       I thought everybody had just finished complaining that the Chinese had doubled the amount of space debris by blowing up one of their own satellites?
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 19 2008

       Balmy weather we're having! Haven't you noticed?
Macdaddyx1, Feb 19 2008

       This US satellite is a top-secret spy satellite that the Americans REALLY don't want anyone else to get there hands on, even if it's a smoldering chunk of casing.
Re: the complaints about the Chinese sat-shot, it's another case of American "do as I say, not as I do" policy.
neutrinos_shadow, Feb 20 2008

       It doesn't have to have electronics. It could just be made of paper and look pretty - like a big piece of origami floating in space.
hippo, Feb 20 2008

       How about clown-car satellites that fall apart in an amusing manner?
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Feb 20 2008

       //another case of American "do as I say, not as I do"// If this spy sat gets blasted, all of the parts will be down within a few weeks. If it doesn't, it'll still be down in a few weeks. The Chinese sat was at a high enough altitude that those parts will still be up there 500 years hence.   

       Imagine, if you will, the spy satellite coming down on Moscow and killing a couple hundred people. Where Putin has been beating his chest about needing to spank the Yanks, and needing to do it soon, and needing to do it with nukes...   

       //Guess they never thought of self-destruct features for satellites.// This satellite has a self-destruct. Had it worked, you would never have heard anything about it.
lurch, Feb 20 2008

       //The Chinese sat was at a high enough altitude that those parts will still be up there 500 years hence.// OK, fair enough. It does seem an odd coincidence, though, that the Chinese demonstrate their ability to knock out a satellite and then, shortly afterwards, the US suddenly realizes that it needs to do the same thing.   

       Also, surely many satellites de-orbit, and the risks to people on the ground are generally considered too low to worry about (unless the satellite contains radioactive material, as in the case of Northern Canada).   

       I guess I just don't believe that the US is doing this purely as a housekeeping excercise.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 20 2008

       I knew I shouldn't have gone to bed early on this one...   

       Neutrinos; lurch; Mr.Buchanon:   

       I read in a related report that Russia is against the shootdown. Maybe they want to catch the 'pop fly' for its supposed technology.   

       Or, maybe the spacejunk never had functioning self-destruct, just like it never had a working system. (Decoy; ever fool your kids by raising one hand and tickling them with your other?)   

       How's about this - components of hydrazine are amonia, sodium hypochlorite, and iodide (salt) items commonly used in cloud seeding to create tropospheric activity. (Rainmaker fable)   

       Ian T; Hippo; Abs: (Should I even address them??) Look for my next half baked idea - Laminated Litho-Tronics. (had this idea for a while; again, you'll be able to find something like it, but not it.)
Macdaddyx1, Feb 20 2008

       //This is about reducing the risk to human life on Earth // (from Jutta's link).   

       So, there we go. All they need to do is to clad the exterior of the shuttle with hydrazine-filled tanks instead of those pesky tiles, and all will be well come re- entry time.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 20 2008

       Could this not be accomplished far more cost affectively and accurately with a laser?   

       I thought the Navy had a railgun ready to go. Maybe there should be a contest.
bungston, Feb 21 2008

       [fries] - to my knowledge lasers powerful to accomplish this are not yet practical.   

       I don't think they give a rats ass about the collateral damage, but it's a great opportunity to test some weapons theory without adverse publicity.   

       I'm betting on at least one failed attempt, with possible success after multiple shots. We'll see.   

       (edit) OK, went straight to CNN.com and they say they hit it. I'm eating my words as we speak.
normzone, Feb 21 2008

       Strongly oppose on the following grounds: A) there is already a large orbital debris problem, B) if the sat is so busted as to need to be terminated (as opposed to passivated, vented, deorbited, or otherwise dealt with safely in a manner still requiring control), then it is unlikely that an intentional self destruct would give you any better odds.   

       A better alternative in my opinion would be to construct hazardous propellant tanks with some part of their pressure vessel specifically meant to fail at high altitude in the event of re-entry. For example, place one of the valves on an exposed part of the sat and make it use an ablative material in its structure. When the sat starts to hit the atmosphere, aeroheating will ablate that part of the valve and it will collapse, venting the propellant (probably explosively) and opening a hole for the rest of reentry forces to tear it apart.
gomer, Jul 26 2008

       Gomer, like the idea of 'safe to go up, falls apart coming down'. However you do not want to de-orbit your very expensive satellite until it has very nearly run out of station keeping propellant. So to have enough left in the tanks to explode the bus on re-entry would take years off its operational life.   

       Make the structure (bus) out of something that degrades with radiation exposure, such as PTFE. On launch it is strong but after a decade in the sunlight it will nicely fall apart on re-entry (and give the upper atmosphere a nice non-stick coating).
eight_nine_tortoise, Dec 23 2008

       Your last paragraph is confusing; are you proposing paper or plastic satellites as an alternative to rocket propelled whales?
spidermother, Dec 26 2008

       Several governments have, in fact, signed up to a treaty which would make the manufacture of rocket-propelled whales illegal. However, the reality is that the stockpiles of these hideous devices are sufficient to allow their continued use for decades.   

       It has been estimated that, even if the production of guided Minkes and rapid-deployment Southern Rights were halted today, there would be no discernible decline in their use for twenty to twenty-five years.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 26 2008

       Even then, some rogue nation is bound to start producing rocket propelled whales for 'research' porpoises, and the whole hideous cycle will start anew.
spidermother, Dec 27 2008

       // Gomer, like the idea of 'safe to go up, falls apart coming down'. However you do not want to de-orbit your very expensive satellite until it has very nearly run out of station keeping propellant. So to have enough left in the tanks to explode the bus on re- entry would take years off its operational life. //   

       It's not necessary to explode the bus on reentry, just the fuel tanks. The bus already disintegrates just fine in most cases (as do the fuel tanks), but even if it makes it to the ground, it doesn't contain dangerous fuel.
notexactly, Jun 13 2015


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