Space Station Could Get Laser Cannon to Destroy Orbital Debris

Discussion in 'General Science' started by Wendy, May 19, 2015.

  1. Wendy

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  2. Kermit2

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    Feb 5, 2010
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    this sounds like it would just be making larger numbers of small objects out of the bigger ones.
    capturing the debris in a web of light weight, high strength fibers would be a better approach. like a roomba for orbital flight paths. :)
     
  3. alfacliff

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    Dec 13, 2013
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    lasers do not destroy things, they melt or vaporise, withch will condense back to solid later. this has been proposed before.
     
  4. wayneh

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    You guys didn't read the link. The idea is NOT to randomly explode large objects into smaller ones, it's to knock them out of orbit.

    "...use the laser to vaporize a thin film of matter off the surface of debris. The resulting high-speed plasma would act like a rocket plume, nudging the junk downward, and away from the space station to eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere."
     
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  5. alfacliff

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    then the plasma condenses into metal or whatever and is going the oposite direction, awsy from the earth creating a problem for whatever it runs into or into it.
     
  6. wayneh

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    The claim is that particles <~1cm are not a huge threat.
     
  7. BR-549

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    I believe there will be problems.

    If I read this right, the momentum(for decay) is added as a reaction to vaporization. I believe that is why they start high in orbit and work their way down. They need the vaporization to be on the space side.

    I wonder what the heating time is? They gave some technical figures, but not a clear cooking time.

    This time will need to be quick, so as to work on spinning objects.

    Also......after all these years of reading about space debris, that is the largest "safe" size I ever heard of.

    I also heard and read that a bb and smaller can do great damage. Even paint flakes.

    When did that change?

    A 10 mm projectile hurts. It's just under .40 caliber.
     
  8. WBahn

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    I have a hard time believing that. I doubt they would like .30 caliber bullets flying at the space station and those are well below 1cm.
     
  9. wayneh

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    Yeah, and picture a bullet going 10-100X faster than that bullet!

    I think they rely on the self-healing hull to at least close the hole to loss of gases. But it is hard to imagine a 20k mph bullet not passing straight thru the station and the astronauts. Maybe such a particle simply vaporizes and dissipates its energy before it breaches the hull of the station.
     
  10. WBahn

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    The web would have to be HUGE in order to have much effect, and it would have to be dense in order to catch the smallest objects of concern, and it would have to be extremely strong to withstand the tremendous impact forces of objects with high differential velocities, and it would have to be able to maintain or restore the shape of the net after each impact, and each impact would affect it's own orbit.
     
  11. WBahn

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    I don't know what the maximum differential velocities are between a satellite and the space junk it is likely to encounter. But I would certainly think it could be very high, even for objects that are in stable orbits where one is polar and the other equatorial.

    I doubt particles on the scale of a bullet could simply vaporize before breaching the hull. Look at what happens to heavily armored vehicles such as tanks when hit by purely kinetic weapons such as A-10 machine gun rounds or sabot penetrators.
     
  12. wayneh

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    I've long wondered how NASA deals with this issue. Crossed fingers?

    I know they use significant padding to catch the small stuff.
     
  13. WBahn

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    I think crossed fingers is a good description. The "official" policy is probably known as something like "Big sky, little rock."
     
  14. BR-549

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  15. ian field

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    Oct 27, 2012
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    Can't remember the actual figures I saw quoted, but orbiting space debris is travelling at some ridiculous speed like 27,000 MPH - the text stated that at that speed, a fleck of paint could cause significant damage to anything it hit.
     
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