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back to article Space Station ready to SWERVE sat junk hurtling towards it

The scheduled undocking of the ESA’s automated transfer vehicle (ATV) from the International Space Station (ISS) is being delayed as NASA and Russian managers prepare for a possible “debris avoidance maneuver” on Thursday. NASA has announced that the ATV’s engines may be needed to execute the maneuver, should it be required. …

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Boffin

What ever happened to the "Right Stuff"?

Don't the Americans have a astronaut ready to do an E.V.A. equipped with a baseball bat?

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Terminator

Re: What ever happened to the "Right Stuff"?

I contend that the only way to effectively deal with space debris is with a giant frickin laser.

That way, the first bit of space debris to cross the ISS path could be blasted to smithereens and made an example of to others.

I would also accept a swarm of micro satellites as a solution for the job.

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Re: What ever happened to the "Right Stuff"?

The trouble with that approach is that you end up with lots of smithereens in orbit... Unless you can actually guarantee to blast them down to whatever tiny size is so small that you can ignore it (and I have a feeling, but could be wrong, that means well under the size of an average grain of sand) then what you are doing is in many respects making things worse.

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Re: What ever happened to the "Right Stuff"?

Absolutely the wrong thing to do. Google "Kessler syndrome", or read some SF.

A single large piece of space junk can be tracked and avoided. 10000 small pieces of space junk can't. And at orbital velocities, even small pieces can cause huge damage.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What ever happened to the "Right Stuff"?

Jesus H. Christ people, chill. I think that whole "huge friking lazer" thing may have been a light-hearted aside, mixed with a love of blowing stuff up. It wasn't an actual serious suggestion.

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Re: What ever happened to the "Right Stuff"?

I contend that the only way to effectively deal with space debris is with a giant frickin laser.

Better to have the giant frickin' space shark the laser's mounted on gobble up the debris.

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Silver badge

Re: What ever happened to the "Right Stuff"?

Actually, I believe that ablating part of a chunk of debris with a laser would impart some delta-v to the chunk in question. Vaporising or blowing up a chunk of debris would be an unfeasible solution. But providing enough thrust with laser to either knock it out of orbit, or knock it off course enough to miss the station is entirely doable. You use the laser to provide power, and the debris itself is it's own reaction mass.

I think that there are rocket engines based on the idea of firing a powerful laser from a distance to ablate material from the back of a space ship in order to provide it with thrust.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What ever happened to the "Right Stuff"?

Amaericans? I would have thought the Russians could just threaten violence, while the debris takes one look at the crew and says "not a chance, I'm off!"

I'd not want to get into a fight with any astronaut!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: providing enough thrust with laser to ... knock it off course

You beat me to it. Thinking about it a bit more, though, you're counting on targetting a suitable bit of debris sticking out in the right place at the right angle, which would complicate things - without that you'll just set the junk spinning.

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Re: providing enough thrust with laser to ... knock it off course

Spinning junk would be a problem.

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Unhappy

Navigational Deflectors?

It's a sad fact that this piece of sci-fi tech is more likely to be required just to be in orbit of our own planet, rather than interstellar spaceflight.

It's 2012 - as I was growing up in the 70s & 80s, they promised me moonbases and antigravity belts :(

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Happy

Re: Navigational Deflectors?

The also promised us global thermonuclear war, so perhaps it's not all bad. ;)

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Unhappy

Re: Navigational Deflectors?

yeah they also promised us flying cars. so we get no flying cars, thermonuclear war or moon bases. sad.

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TRT
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Re: Navigational Deflectors?

Robot monkey butlers. That is all.

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Happy

Re: Navigational Deflectors?

And what about jet-packs, I want a jet-pack! It does not even need antigravity, for goodness' sake (or slood for that matter)

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Happy

Re: Flying Cars

I've flown cars a number of times in my youth - all you need is enough speed and a large bump in the road. The landings were a bit harsh, tho....

And yes, I'm an American.

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Silver badge

Re: Navigational Deflectors?

"And what about jet-packs, I want a jet-pack! It does not even need antigravity, for goodness' sake (or slood for that matter)"

Here ya go... just needs a large enough body of water to fly over.

http://www.jetlev-flyer.com/

WARNING: Annoying, loud music courtesy of some stupid market type.

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"recently grabbed the headlines by modifying a toothbrush to use as a thread-cleaner"

So they cleaned a bolt cos it were dirty?

With PR like this no wonder space travel is still stuck in the 70s.

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FAIL

They cleaned a threaded hole. Which is a bit more involved, given that it is somewhere on the outside of the ISS.

Was it too hard to click on the link and read what that was about?

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It doesn't actually specifically say that in the article and in the article that the linked-to article links to it suggest that NASA at one point thought there might be damage to the thread in the hole, but it's inconclusive. Either way it's still not exactly a big deal. They used a bit of wire and a toothbrush to clean it, woopedy-f**king-doo. Had they re-threaded or heli-coiled the hole I'd be more impressed. By the sounds of it they had mounting posts though ("receptacle posts"), which to me implies a bolt with a threaded hole in it, like motherboard posts, so they wouldn't necessarily have had to do it in-situ.

As an aside, Firefox delightfully suggest "on-site" as a correction for in-situ.

Still feeling smarmy?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dave 62

Ever tried doing that in zero G while wearing a space suit in orbit and tethered for the sake of your small insignificant life? No? Then get back to us when you have and have proven it easy.

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Alert

"Helm...

"... Evasive manoeuvres!"

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I am no expert on rocket science but couldnt the astronoughts moon walk outside of the space station and prod/catch the flying debris with log poles and nets? of course government scientists never think of the easy (read: cheap) option. our tax dollars at work!

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that just....

wow, just wow

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Depends on the closing speeds. I'm pretty sure if I asked you do go outside and catch a bullet mid-flight with a pole and net you might struggle a bit!

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Anonymous Coward

couldnt the astronoughts

They're "nauts", although after carrying out your manoeuvre they'd be "noughts" right enough.

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Re: couldnt the astronoughts

They'd be astronuts to even consider doing such a thing!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The Commenter formally known as Matt

I think it was a "joke".

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Boffin

that the red zone is a 50 km square, 1.5 km deep, surrounding the ISS.

Given Space is 3D, surely a sphere would be be more logical? In fact, surely it would be rugby ball shaped, with the long axis on the path of travel?

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Boffin

Well

In fact, surely it would be rugby ball shaped, with the long axis on the path of travel?

Whose path of travel? The ISS, or the piece of debris? Given that LEO objects can have any orientation of orbit, your shape would turn out an oblate spheroid.

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Trollface

I think you'll find that's due to the ISS being longer and wider than it is deep

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Happy

Space-cleaners

Serious suggestions have been made about how to clean up orbital junk. You'd need orbiting robot craft that would match orbit with each piece of junk and deal with it. You won't want to take the junk on board because that means you'd need more fuel for the next orbital rondezvous, and soon you'd be out of fuel.

The manouvering would use a low-thrust high-efficiency electrically-powered thuster such as VASIMR. When it matched orbit with a piece of junk it would attach a very lightweight "parachute". Something to maximise drag with respect to the very thin atmosphere or solar wind up there. This would cause the piece of junk to de-orbit over a number of years, ending with it re-entering and burning up.

Sort of like a fleet of orbiting Roombas!

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Re: Space-cleaners

A sound concept, except a lot of the (detectable) crap up there is only a couple of inches across, making recovery tricky and high cost. And getting hit by a metallic object at 500 m/sec is gonna do damage whether it's 2 inches or 20 feet in size.

And thus the NASA dilema on how to clean it all up.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't understand

The article mentions "tracking data shows an object “edging inside” what it calls the “red zone” of proximity to the space station".

Surely an object that is just "edging inside" this zone around the ISS is of no threat. I thought the problem was pieces of debris that arrive at orbital speeds (relative to ISS)?

Or do they mean that the orbital path of these objects (that are moving very fast relative to ISS) are starting to slowly creep into the "red-zone"?

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Bronze badge

Re: I don't understand

"Edging in" refers to the orbit approaching the ISS. Although, even a slow moving object is a problem. You don't want it stuck in your air lock doors or engine nozzles.

No doubt other collisions can knock parts closer to the station. Are they going to wait till it gets too close? No, they deal with it now when they still have time. Or things such as solar winds can effect it AFAIK. Not sure how much it effect the orbit though.

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Coat

I visualize the ISS traveling through space with a stream of debris trailing behind. Periodic orbital shifts are required to get out of the path of their own junk.

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Star Trek technology

Shields up, Mr. Sulu (or whoever has charge of them!)

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Red zone

Inside the 20 yard line, Shirley!

It's CFL season.

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