back to article A cracked window on the International Space Station? That's not good

British astronaut Tim Peake has sparked an orbital kerfuffle after he tweeted a picture showing a crack in the International Space Station's window. It was caused by space debris. Often asked if @Space_Station is hit by space debris. Yes – this chip is in a Cupola window https://t.co/iH87Dt80yV pic.twitter.com/7ZvVs4myM0 — Tim …

  1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

    I noticed that SpaceX sheds the satellite shroud panels (the cover thingies) almost as soon as they're out of the atmosphere. Long before reaching orbital velocity. They'd fall back almost immediately.

    Traditionally, based on what I've seen before with NASA and ESA, they'd would reach orbit, and take a tea break, and then deploy the shroud panels (dumping them into orbit for who knows how long).

    Give full credit to SpaceX for figuring that out on their own.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

      SpaceX is currently looking at ways/methods to recover the fairings, much like the Stage 1 Booster. Its a fairly expensive part (several million), though not in the same league of savings, from reusing the 9 Merlin Engines/Booster. its still worth recovering.

      Really. we should be thankful Musk is the sort of person that prefers to fix something and reuse, than throw it in the bin and buy a new one. The message he is subtly projecting is the right one, going forward.

      1. smartermind

        Re: Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

        You mean like pointlessly hurling a roadster into space, just because he could? Or selling pointless flame throwers just because he could? Yup, he sure doesn't like waste! /sarc.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

          "You mean like pointlessly hurling a roadster into space, just because he could?"

          Instead of a large block of concrete/lead - which is the traditional payload for test launches.

          $HINT: It was a test flight of a brand new high payload rocket system with a self-professed 50:50 chance of blowing up before clearing the atmosphere. They offered a free ride to any takers, but noone was game(*). The roadster was cheap publicity (costing far less than the fuel) and the suit was the expensive part anyway.

          (*)The last group who took a free ride on a new booster (Ariane 5) ended up digging parts out of a swamp.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

      Shedding the panels should result in fuel savings as well, right? No clue how much mass we're talking about, or how much fuel savings. I'd imagine that the vast majority is spent in the early stages of a launch, but still...

      1. Black Betty

        Re: Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

        Negligible at that point in the flight. As a matter of fact, the shuttle external fuel tank was deliberately jettisoned with enough unburned fuel for it to have completed the trip, AND left quite a few more miles on the shuttle's OMS into the bargain.

        I think rather than returning boosters intact, fly them whole to orbit, then disassemble them there, returning only the really, really expensive and as it happens most rugged components. Engine assembly, computers, and the flight controls can all be bundled up behind a heatshield they for parachute recovery.

        Keeping the tall, unstable, flimsy and relatively cheap tanks intact, and holding everything together, is the hardest part of the whole recovery process. Why not take the tanks all the way to space and use them for free cubage, pressurised construction shacks or just plain slice them up for raw materials.

        The construction shack is a particularly useful idea. No need for fancy meteorite protection. It's just an empty space that can hold enough pressure to allow workers to work in flexible lightweight air suits. The shack itself would be filled nitrogen or argon for safety. If the shack does lose pressure, the workers are safe. Stuck in sumo suits, but safe.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          @Black Betty

          I agree with your idea, intellectually speaking, but basic principle of staged rockets is to shed the dead weight to get into orbit using less fuel. Keeping the dead weight kinda defeats the purpose.

          Until we find some other way of lifting mass into space, we're probably stuck with the current status quo.

      2. Timbo

        Re: Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

        "Shedding the panels should result in fuel savings as well, right? No clue how much mass we're talking about, or how much fuel savings. I'd imagine that the vast majority is spent in the early stages of a launch, but still..."

        One can't shed the panels too soon, as they are used to help the initial launch phase where the "air wall" in front of the rocket is very large.

        Rockets go from 0-400 km/h within 30 secs and reach 1000 km/h within 60 secs, 2000 km/h after 90s and by 2 mins are at 4000 km/h. After 150 sec, 7000 km/h would be reached and at approx 3 mins, the fairings are dispensed with, by which time 8500 km/h would have been reached.

        Without the fairings all that "air wall" pressure would damage the payload section* of the rocket.

        * = which tends to be at the top (front) of the rocket.

      3. Seajay#

        Re: Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

        Shedding the panels should result in fuel savings as well, right?

        In Kerbal Space Program people have done some tests which suggest that for optimum efficiency, you should shed them somewhere around 20km. Obviously it's not an accurate model of the real atmosphere but presumably the principle holds.

        The down side is that if you shed your panels while still thrusting and still in atmosphere, you increase the risk of them impacting the rest of your space craft. Reasonably enough, NASA are a bit wary of items falling off and impacting, oh for example, a thermal protection tile.

    3. Rustident Spaceniak
      Stop

      Re: Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

      Credit where credit is due, but that's to all.

      Not sure what you've "seen" from NASA and ESA, but all modern launch vehicles separate the payload fairings well below reaching orbit. In the case of Ariane 5, it's typically between 110km and 125km, depending on payload - anyway, as soon as the heat flux from atmospheric friction is low enough. No launch provider would carry unneeded panels any longer than necessary; payload mass is much too valuable for that.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

        RS offered: "Not sure what you've 'seen' from NASA and ESA, but all modern launch vehicles separate the payload fairings well below reaching orbit."

        Mostly during the previous millennium. A famous example that springs to mind would be the "angry alligator".

    4. Adrian Midgley 1

      Re: Guidelines - credit to SpaceX...

      Also no point carrying fuel to accelerate them further.

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Thoguht Silver badge

    Cracked windscreen

    Hello, is that Autoglass?

    Ah, um, the location of the vehicle? Right.

    What do you mean, you don't do Earth orbit?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cracked windscreen

      It would be $10,000,000 but since you're insured you just have to pay the excess.

      How much is the excess?

      It's $10,000,000

    2. Gary 24

      Re: Cracked windscreen

      Gavin's on his way...

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Cracked windscreen

        "It's only 205 miles away, at times, but you have to be quick if you want to catch it. If you wait too long it could be several thousand miles away."

      2. Dan Wilkie

        Re: Cracked windscreen

        Ready to fill you up with his special resin?

    3. el_oscuro

      Re: Cracked windscreen

      We used to get Dominoes Pizza delivered to military grid coordinates:

      "We would like 3 large pepperonis"

      "Address?"

      "Three Four Zero Eight Zero Alpha Eight "

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't worry...

    ... Nadella will try to replace those windows too with Windows 10.

    1. Adam Jarvis

      Re: Don't worry...

      Nah...Microsoft Windows wouldn't be Windows, without a few holes in it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Gates Horns

      Re: Don't worry...

      Call that a hole?.. That's not a hole...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't worry...

      The new Windows will be free until July 28th.

    4. oldcoder

      Re: Don't worry...

      Even though the replacement windows won't fit...

      Leak like a sieve...

      Will be replaced without notice...

      while still leaking like a sieve..

      and contain an undocumented camera...

      And cause frequent total failures.

  4. John Robson Silver badge

    Holes

    There are 7 holes all the way through the cupola walls. Used to close the debris shields...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSzuiqVjJg4

    An eighth wouldn't be good

    1. Spoonguard
      Facepalm

      Re: Holes

      7 holes seem good enough for me!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Transparent ALUMINUM?

    That's the ticket, laddie.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

      And now I just NEED those Jefferies Tubes. Maybe with Xenomorphs inside.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

        Sapphire.

        Aluminum (with some Oxygen) and Transparent.

    2. ingie
      Coat

      Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

      Aye, The size of Whales.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Headmaster

        Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

        Ahem.

        Aluminium. If you please.

        Thank you dear boy...

        Now, do excuse me, i have tea and scones waiting for me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Trollface

          Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

          Aluminium. If you please.

          'Tis a sad problem caused by the revolting colonials, is it not?

          But not to worry, as they'll soon all be speaking Spanish, and the problem of Merkins mangling the Queen's English will simply fade away.

        2. h4rm0ny
          Unhappy

          Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

          Sadly El Reg now uses American English. I sent a correction to them on an unrelated issue a while back and mentioned in passing that they'd used an American spelling. Got told that as they now have more readers in the USA, that's what they're using.

          Lewis Page gone, American English and other sordid changes... El Reg is British no longer.

          1. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

            " they now have more readers in the USA,"

            Difficult to definitively tell when so many people use proxies that make it appear as if they are in the US.

            1. Keir Snelling

              Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

              I'm in the UK, but posting from my American employer's network, so suspect my IP makes me look septic.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

              " they now have more readers in the USA,"

              Perhaps they could surrender register.co.uk then? And we could arrange for the restoration of the property to its former glory. Meanwhile, the current editorial team go make closer friends with all the Forrest Gumps who seem to need to despoil any English-speaking comment forum with input that can be summarised as "life is like a bawx of chawclates"

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

            El Reg might not be "British" but English is English. Being in a different time zone is no excuse for not using it properly.

            1. smartermind

              Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

              There be many variants of Zinglish, not just ze "Queen's English".

              Even in Blighty, "of" is replacing "have" and "loose" replacing "lose".

              Used to it get, things ain't going back to ze Empire. Not even post-Brexit.

              (Sic)

          3. x 7

            Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

            actually......"Aluminum" is the older name and should take precedence. "Aluminium" only exists because of a later British attempt at systemising the name to match other metals

            1. Adrian Midgley 1

              Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

              Actually the systematised version should take precedence.

              Using metres for spacecraft orbits helps also.

          4. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

            I tend to think that preferring one spelling over another is a bit of a crock. I'm quite comfortable reading both American and the Queen's English (I'm in the States). The spellings and usage should reflect the host/home countries preferences. I do wish the spellcheckers would reflect this as it seems depending it's mood, either the Queen's or American will flag as wrong.

            Sidenote: My lady is having a novel published by an Australian publisher and they are converting the spellings to their version even though my lady is American and the novel is set in the States. After all is said and done, that will work for both of us.

        3. WraithCadmus
          Flame

          Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

          Aluminium. If you please.

          IUPAC has solved this, to wit:

          • Aluminium
          • Sulfur

          Icon: Exothermic reaction, may involve sulfur.

    3. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: Transparent ALUMINUM?

      And there's a picture of the man himself right next to the article (linking to this article); I tell you the Internet is sentient, and is messing with our heads.

  6. wsm

    Surely...

    Dyson has a solution by now.

    1. Sartori

      Re: Surely...

      Well, he is usually pretty good with vacuum's

    2. emmanuel goldstein

      Re: Surely...

      Freeman or James?

      1. Tom_

        Re: Surely...

        "Freeman or James?"

        Miles.

    3. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Surely...

      But his solution would just suck.

      - ah yes, that's where I left my coat.

  7. ecofeco Silver badge
    Coat

    Thank god the screen doors are still working.

  8. David McCoy

    Am I the only only thinking of that bit in GC Edmondson's The Man Who Corrupted Earth?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We have a Cupola hole."

    "You have a couples of holes?"

    1. DocJames

      Re: "We have a Cupola hole."

      "You have a couples of holes?"

      "And 4 candles."

      I have no need to add an icon, given I've quoted one

  10. Schultz

    Time out

    Humans should just take a short time out to let the debris come back down. It works, after all that's how our planet got formed. A couple of centuries should do.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Time out

      Nah- extend the Turner prize to space debris, and watch Emin* and Hurst* knock themselves out over it. Might get a nice ring out of it.

      Oh, and they can stay up there to polish it.

      *Other random 'Artists' are available...

  11. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Space glazing! Yes, always carry spares...

    As to the debris: wouldn't the smaller bits be something the proposed anti meteor laser(s) could practise on?

    1. WonkoTheSane
      Mushroom

      Tracking ANYTHING at somewhere north of 30,000mph is kinda tricky!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        More like 18,000mph for low-earth orbit.

        The good news is a lot of it is moving in roughly the same direction (since people generally launch in the direction of earth's spin for a free 1,000mph boost)

        If anyone wants to make a real space weapon then they can just launch a bag of nails in the opposite direction...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          If anyone wants to make a real space weapon then they can just launch a bag of nails in the opposite direction...

          Not very targeted. And you'd need a bloody big bag of nails to have any chance of hitting anything.

          Mind you, lets put ourselves in the position of evil fatboy Kim Jong Un. No mates, no real satellites, and desperate to garner some publicity. Nothing to lose by polluting LEO space, and a modest amount to gain. So would somebody care to do some fagpacket maths on how many nails Porky Kim will need to scatter to stand a modest chance of destroying say 4 satellites within six months? One or two lost satellites the owners could hush up, but after there's been four taken out, it becomes a bit more difficult to deny there's a problem.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Space caltrops!

          2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Holmes

            But Kim can just dial up some beautiful women whenever he wants so, unlike for loner nerds, his nastiness doesn't need to become excessive.

            One or two lost satellites the owners could hush up, but after there's been four taken out, it becomes a bit more difficult to deny there's a problem.

            Nobody "hushes up" lost satellites. Why? Because investors and customers need assurance that orbital stuff works and stays working (plus, insurance claims may come due).

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > So would somebody care to do some fagpacket maths on how many nails Porky Kim will need to scatter to stand a modest chance of destroying say 4 satellites within six months?

            Hmm. Although the frozen peas are appealing, suppose we go for iron filings with an average size of 1mm x 0.2mm x 0.2mm.

            Iron has a density of 7870 kg/m^3, so I reckon 10kg will contain 31.8 million of these particles. (Of course, it may be easier just to blow up the whole rocket when it reaches orbit, but that may give you a much smaller number of larger particles)

            Let's say these 31.8 million particles expand to a 10km cube. That gives one particle every 31480 m^3, or one for every cube of side 31.5m.

            Now let's say there's an incoming satellite. The satellite is passing through at a particular (x,y) path within this 10km square cross-section A, and all the particles have a random (x,y) position within the same cross-section. The z position doesn't matter. The cross-section of the satellite is a.

            The probability that it doesn't hit any particle is ((A-a)/A)^N

            For a small satellite with cross-sectional area 1 m^2, we have A = 10000^2, a =1, N = 31,800,000

            I reckon the probability of *not* hitting at least one of those particles is 0.73. And that's every time it meets the cloud (i.e. about once every 45 minutes)

            Assuming that an iron filing particle is more potent than a fleck of paint, I'd say destruction of everything is assured.

          4. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            "Nothing to lose by polluting LEO space, and a modest amount to gain. "

            If such an act could be pinned on him, I suspect he would lose quite a lot.

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          A box of glitter would probably be more effective. No need for anything as big as nails.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            A box of glitter would probably be more effective.

            You've got a point there. But rather than a box of glitter from Claire's Accessories, what about alternative missiles. Condoms, or ladies's sanitary products would be amusing, but perhaps too bulky. But what about frozen peas, or a few boxes of dry catfood?

            Imagine Obama's face: "The Norks have knocked out our satellites with WHAT?

        3. Chemical Bob

          "launch a bag of nails"

          Not regular nails, gotta be Space Nails or they won't work in zero G...

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "If anyone wants to make a real space weapon then they can just launch a bag of nails in the opposite direction..."

          You don't need to launch in the opposite direction. Orbital precession will do that pretty quickly for you anyway

  12. Alister Silver badge

    By the sound of it, we don't need to go asteroid mining to get loads of useful minerals, we just need to clear out LEO and GEO of all the bits and recycle them.

    What they need, right, is to launch a really, really big ball of Blu-tak, which can collect all the small debris.

    1. sopcannon

      somehow misread the second line as Lego.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      ...really big ball of Blu-tak, which can collect all the small debris.

      You're trying to get someone to build a Katamari, aren't you?

    3. Simon Harris Silver badge

      "we just need to clear out LEO and GEO of all the bits and recycle them."

      Maybe The Clangers and The Wombles could join forces.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > By the sound of it, we don't need to go asteroid mining to get loads of useful minerals, we just need to clear out LEO and GEO of all the bits and recycle them.

      Rather more cheaply, you could go mining in a rubbish dump on earth.

  13. fedoraman
    Go

    Just the job for Sputnik Stan?

    "They call me Spunik Stan

    I view the Earth from a garbage can

    I'm in Earth's orbit

    It's a junk yard, man

    It's just a job

    I'm the satellite junk man"

    Alan Davey (Hawkwind)

    1. Dabooka Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Just the job for Sputnik Stan?

      Well she was walking all alone

      Down the street in the alley

      Her name was Sally

      I never touched her, she never saw it

      When she was hit by space junk

      When she was hit by space junk

      When she was hit by space junk

      etc etc

      Devo

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Just the job for Sputnik Stan?

        It's a beautification campaign.

        Well, I dare say you need it, Alec.

        Conflict

        Codeword: Washington Square.

  14. MrXavia
    Thumb Up

    I find it amazing they actually carry spares for the windows, I would have expected that would be a part that would not be on hand for a non-essential component of the station.

    It may be probably the coolest component but surely not the most critical, its small so they can just seal it off if there is a problem!

    Thumbs up to the engineers who designed it and to the engineers who built it!

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      The windows are probably key structural components keeping the atmosphere in while the debris shields are retractable and therefore cannot keep the atmosphere in - hence the need for spares. As for why windows, most likely two reasons - we're humans and like to look out on occasion and a viewing aperture like a window is considerably more flexible in use than a video camera.

      1. x 7

        you have to have windows, otherwise you wouldn't be able to see the damage when they get broken

  15. Steve Crook

    Now, about that launch

    Of a tonne of 1mm ball bearings Mr Bond....

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, it may help against aliens..

    Could be interesting if we have enough debris up there to act as an industrial shredder on anything that tries to get close.

    Or, in a reverse on that position, if we could all just organise it in a few concentric rings it could maybe look as attractive as Saturn. We may have to send a few people up with mallets to hammer anything flat that sticks out like solar panels or telescopes, but it ought to look really pretty afterwards.

    What? Yes, you can smoke some too. I stocked up for the weekend.

  17. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coat

    With those windows

    Nobody can hear you scream on the ISS? hehe

  18. Pseudonymous Diehard

    We're missing the important question here...

    A flexk of paint might be the culprit...

    Why paint space stuff?

    1. Rusty 1
      Coat

      Re: We're missing the important question here...

      Space graffiti!

    2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: We're missing the important question here...

      "

      Why paint space stuff?

      "

      To prevent it vacudizing

  19. Rusty 1

    Gravity

    Can't they just turn gravity off for a bit, on a quiet afternoon, until the debris has spun away into somebody else's space?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Gravity

      Restarting the gravity after shutting it off does require some serious steps by several dozen field techs and takes some time. Manglement won't pay the OT to get it turned back on in a timely fashion.

      OTOH, there's a bunch of people waiting in line at McDonalds that wouldn't mind if they suddenly weighed nothing.

      Hmm.... I have a plan forming.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gravity

        Fat Boy Slim's Space McDonalds?

  20. Dave Ross

    Clearly...

    ...we need the crew of the Toy Box.

    1. simno34
      Thumb Up

      Re: Clearly...

      clearly no-one else got the ΠΛΑΝΗΤΕΣ reference :-)

  21. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Kessler Syndrome

    I often thought that the idea of the Kessler Syndrome has a large flaw in it. When two objects travelling at orbital velocity collide, surely the transfer of momentum into the fragments would mean that they would not be travelling at the same speed? The bits that are slowed down would fall back into the atmosphere and burn up, and any that end up travelling faster would escape orbit. Add to that that most of the fragments would probably end up in elliptical orbits and therefore dip into the atmosphere and de-orbit, wouldn't the problem solve itself in fairly short order?

    Can anyone enlighten me as to whether I am right or wrong here? Are there documented cases of orbital collisions and studies into the fate of the debris?

    1. Steve the Cynic

      Re: Kessler Syndrome

      In general, there would be a range of speeds and directions among the debris. Some would be steeply enough pitched and/or slowed enough to go deep enough into the atmosphere to be deorbited quickly. Others would, as you say, be faster than local circular-orbit speed, *but* from LEO circular-orbit speed to escape speed(1) is an increase of something like +50%, so actual escapes are unlikely.

      So there would be a wide range of debris scattered "forward" from the collision (except in the case of a retrograde-prograde(2) impact, where all bets are off, but there would be a significant loss of speed), and some fraction of this debris would be at non-zero orbital inclinations and/or orbital eccentricities, and so would cross/touch the existing equatorial plane at significant delta-V and pose a significant risk to other satellites.

      And yes, there have been collisions between satellites where the debris was tracked afterwards.

      (1) It's a speed, not a velocity. Unless the path in a particular direction actually intersects the primary or some other orbiting body, it doesn't matter which direction an object that exceeds the escape speed travels - it *will* escape.

      (2) Prograde: revolving(3) in the same direction that the primary rotates. Retrograde: revolving in the opposite direction to the one in which the primary rotates. A retrograde-prograde collision, then is head-on or close to it, and takes place at a much higher closing speed than a same-grade collision.

      (3) Revolve: said of orbiting bodies, and describes their motion around the primary. Rotate: said of bodies in general, and describes their motion around their own axis.

  22. nichomach
    Trollface

    Paging Howard Wolowitz...

    "Hey Froot Loops - you're up!"

  23. HurdImpropriety

    CHINA made a huge mess blowing up a satellite

    Well CHINA blowing up one of their satellites into a Bazillion pieces certainly did NOT help.

  24. Sporkinum
  25. Maty

    Kessler syndrome

    Wasn't the point of the Kessler syndrome that space damage is exponential? That is, debris hits a satellite in an explosion creating lots of junk, which increases the risk of another satellite getting hit, creating even more junk until there's a sort of orbiting band of destruction that nothing can get through.

    (and communications go back to the 1950s)

    1. EveryTime Silver badge

      Re: Kessler syndrome

      Kessler Syndrome sounds realistic, but it's likely a too-simple model.

      One big issue has already been mentioned: total momentum is conserved, but a big part of the kinetic energy is changed to heat. So only a small fraction of the debris will have the kinetic energy to remain in a stable orbit. The vast majority of collision debris will be put into highly elliptical orbits. An orbit that isn't nearly circular will dip into the atmosphere at perigee, with fiery results.

      A second effect is more important: small objects quickly drop out of low earth orbit. Their cross-section area is high in relation to their mass. Collisions with stray molecules (too thin to be "atmosphere" or call it "drag") causes a rapid decay in the orbit. Again, ultimately with fiery results.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Kessler syndrome

        "total momentum is conserved, but a big part of the kinetic energy is changed to heat"

        s/big/small/ - Your assumption is wrong on that score.

        As for drag - it depends on the height and the problematic stuff is high enough that there's not much drag - for the same reason that satellites aren't orbited where drag is higher.

    2. Chemical Bob
      Trollface

      Re: orbiting band of destruction that nothing can get through

      "(and communications go back to the 1950s)"

      We'd be safe from the Psychlos at least. But not from Dianetics.

  26. x 7

    "transparent aluminum"

    so Scotty and Co really did travel back in time?

  27. Rick Brasche

    kids with BB guns

    gonna shoot someone's space station window out with that!

  28. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    And the Chinese (wasn't it?) practiced blowing up things in orbit...

    Very forward thinking.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "And the Chinese (wasn't it?) practiced blowing up things in orbit..."

      The Russians and the Americans have done it too. The difference is that the Chinese blew up a satellite in a higher orbit, resulting in a longer-lived debris trail.

      Kesslerisation in the lower orbits cleans itselt up after a few deacdes-to-centuries. At higher orbits (IE: SEO - where all the GPS birds are) it's effectively millenia+++ and there have already been a couple of collisions that high up.

  29. Grinning Bandicoot

    The expensive part of the launch program after the politics is achieving orbital. The trick would be to build a local recycle point (a Trojan Point). Some day when left-handed phlamistrand type B is needed a trip to the local dump with a minor delta V might be a paying proposition.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oi've got a space jiunk combined harvester

    But Oi can't foind the key.

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