back to article China to offer recoverable satellites-as-a-service

China’s told the world it plans to get into the recoverable satellite business. The nation’s launched and recovered satellites since the 1960s. Early missions may have been surveillance efforts that returned films to Earth to provide photographic reconnaissance. More recent missions have allowed experiments to be conducted in …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Alert

    Come in XUR 12322716523

    Your time is up!

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Come in XUR 12322716523

      ƐƧS9ƖLƧƧƐƧƖ , are you in trouble?

  2. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Pint

    They can start by recovering the failing/falling Tiangong-1.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      They might just try depending on where it lands... or not. Damn litterbugs... get off my lawn.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "where it lands... or not"

        I'd settle for something going up and wrapping it in primercord+C4 to fire when it gets low enough to heat up to maximise the volume and ensure burnup.

        Skylab only started breaking up 10km above the ground.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Oak heatshields

    Hmmm! Smoky barbequed satellites!

    There's a You tuber Alec Steele who has a teeshirt that says ' If it works it's not stupid' .

    Must be expensive lobbing chunks of oak into orbit though.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Oak heatshields

      I believe school children in WW2 were asked to collect walnut shells and then their school would send them to a PO BOX. The military were looking at using the shells to make heat shields.

      I can't find a link on Google though. Some one with a New Scientist subscription might be able to dig it out.

      1. Steve Todd

        Re: Oak heatshields

        Wrong war, and wrong reason. They collected peach pits and nut shells during the First World War to make gas masks. Link: http://www.independentri.com/independents/north_east/opinion/article_38bfb054-bcee-59e7-b32e-f56d3f4c88a7.html

      2. Marcus Fil

        Re: Oak heatshields

        Horse Chesnuts aka 'Conkers' were collected by school children as a supplementary source of starch for the manufacture of acetone, which was then used to make cordite. I believe this happened in both world wars, but may have been more for propaganda then practical use.

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/making_history/makhist10_prog3d.shtml

      3. druck

        Re: Oak heatshields

        I remember a Canadian air force pilot telling me how they used to clean Hercules engines with crushed walnut shells, so they must be pretty resistant to heat.

        1. TheRealRoland

          Re: Oak heatshields

          http://www.chinook-helicopter.com/history/aircraft/C_Models/74-22292/74-22292.html - Walnut grit.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Oak heatshields

      Oak is a particularly fire-resistant timber because it is very strong and dense so that it chars rather than burns, forming a protective layer of charcoal that keeps oxygen at bay. This is recognised (or certainly used to be) in the UK Building Regulations for fire resistance and it makes oak a more economic building material than you might expect. Run that up to Mach 20 or whatever and it becomes an ablative or sacrificial material similar to that used on the original American X-15 sub-orbital rocket plane. Oak is kinder to the environment than that disgusting and toxic chemical brew, too. I don't know about the weight though, that would add a lot to the fuel costs.

      1. Floydian Slip
        Facepalm

        Re: Oak heatshields

        Surely the solution is to grow the oak in the micro-gravity of space?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Oak heatshields

        "Oak is a particularly fire-resistant timber because it is very strong and dense so that it chars rather than burns"

        There's at least one type of eucalypt so dense that it's known as "firebricks" - it's almost impossible to work as it ruins metal tools and it's around twice the density of water.

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: Oak heatshields

          Got to respect nature. A lot.

          Great how we find uses for these natural materials that they never evolved to withstand.

        2. onefang Silver badge

          Re: Oak heatshields

          'There's at least one type of eucalypt so dense that it's known as "firebricks" - it's almost impossible to work as it ruins metal tools and it's around twice the density of water.'

          Only one problem with using eucalypts as heat shields, eucalyptus oil tends to burn far too easily. Just ask any Australian fire fighter.

  4. I&I

    “Truth to power” hits power and gets bent

    Webbing for oaken heat shield produced this confirmatory article:

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg14619738-300-space-oddities/amp/

    ...BUT same article refers to a nuclear test site manhole cover being the first object launched (unintentionally) into space (nuclear cannon) - which (sadly) from the following article appears to be urban myth:

    https://io9.gizmodo.com/no-a-nuclear-explosion-did-not-launch-a-manhole-cover-1715340946

  5. x 7 Silver badge

    About time that ALL satellites were made recoverable

    1. AndyS

      > About time that ALL satellites were made recoverable

      Why?

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Because its getting damn crowded up there.

        The planned constellations of several thousand micro-sats must have an impact on other launches as these try to find a launch window that suits the mission objectives while avoiding the risk of hitting a micro-sat. If you were to point out that launching one of these mega-constellations looks downright selfish and totally inconsiderate of other satellite users I would not disagree.

        1. Jimmy2Cows

          You know orbital space is pretty big, right? And gets bigger with higher orbits.

          Couple of thousand shouldn't be an issue. Still plenty of separation.

          1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
            Pint

            "Couple of thousand shouldn't be an issue. Still plenty of separation."

            J2C offered, "Couple of thousand [satellites] shouldn't be an issue. Still plenty of separation."

            Arguably correct. Too bad there's probably about 14,000+ objects now.

            Wiki: "The United States Space Surveillance Network (SSN) currently tracks more than 8,000 man-made orbiting objects ...that are 10 centimeters in diameter or larger."

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "Couple of thousand shouldn't be an issue. Still plenty of separation."

            Look up Kessler syndrome.

      2. x 7 Silver badge

        Why?

        1) We're running out of room

        2) The chances of some random lump of metal landing on your head are increasing

        1. AndyS

          > 1) We're running out of room

          That's not an argument to make them recoverable, just to provide provision for a controlled suicide burn at end of life. Many larger sats do this already.

          > 2) The chances of some random lump of metal landing on your head are increasing

          Again, this isn't an argument for recoverable satellites. At best, it's an argument for a controlled suicide burn. But sats which are large enough to do damage can generally already do this. Micro-sats really don't need to - nothing will make it back through.

    2. 's water music Silver badge

      About time that ALL satellites were made recoverable

      They need a deposit scheme. They could use Newsagents as the collection network. They already have the experience

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    Cunning plan

    All of those unrecoverable satellites are up there because aliens ha e tricked the human race into sending thousands of bits of metal into orbit around the Earth. When there are enough of them they will weld them together into a mini Dyson sphere to stop humans getting off the planetand contaminating the galaxy with never ending war, reality shows and unintelligible gangster rap.

  7. VinceH Silver badge
    Joke

    "More recent missions have allowed experiments to be conducted in microgravity, an environment China feels is a fine place to grow seeds that produce hardier plants than their terra-bound cousins."

    That gives me an idea for a new line of business for someone - probably Amazon.

    Grow stuff in orbit in a micro-gravity, and provide a (cooked) food delivery service; customer orders something from the menu, and the order is dropped on to them from orbit, using the heat of re-entry to cook it.

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Alien

      Try it with petunias.

    2. ravenviz Silver badge

      Ah, like that other good idea of putting potatoes in foil in your engine to bake them.

  8. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I'm told that Apollo had an oak component in its heat shielding. Once it chars, oak is remarkably resistant to heat and insulates well I'm led to understand.

    Works well against cannonballs too, I understand, which is why the great oak forests of England were strip-mined into extinction by Henry the Eighth.

    Good job too. Dealt with the Spanish Menace, the French Menace and the incipient Werewolf Menace in one go.

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      You might be thinking of cork, minimal research seems to show it was used pre-lunar Apollo.

  9. TheRealRoland
    Unhappy

    Counting Crows - Recovering the Satellites - nobody? Sigh.

  10. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    ..Those who wish to conduct cheap microgravity experiments often turn to sounding rockets, which offer only a few minutes of space flight and no return trip..

    Umm. My understanding of a sounding rocket is that it goes straight up. This gives a bit of microgravity once the booster stops and it cruises up... but then it turns round and comes straight down again.

    So there's quite a rapid return trip. And one which, if you include a parachute, you ecperiment might survive...

  11. short

    Digestive biscuits are surprisingly fireproof

    Anyone who's tried to laser cut a digestive can tell you that they're surprisingly resistant, so I reckon a huge one would be worth a try for a heat shield. Getting SpaceX to replace their boat-borne catcher's mitt with a giant cup of tea would be a fine thing, too.

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: Digestive biscuits are surprisingly fireproof

      > Getting SpaceX to replace their boat-borne catcher's mitt with a giant cup of tea would be a fine thing, too.

      Just so long as the inevitable recovery failures don't lead to flying saucers.

    2. Martin Budden

      Re: Digestive biscuits are surprisingly fireproof

      Forget the tea, pair the giant Digestive with a nice wheel of cheese. SpaceX has some experience there.

  12. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Whose satellite is it anyway?

    So will the chinese limit themselves to only recovering their own satellites or ones that the owners request?

    Or will there be the option of "recovering" other people's satellites, against their will?

  13. Richard_Sideways

    An oaken shield you say?

    That must be the THORIN (THermal Orbit Return InsulatioN) system...

    When it sets down, it starts singing about gold...

    1. Laura Kerr
      Thumb Up

      Re: An oaken shield you say?

      I wish I could upvote that more than once.

      Now get your coat.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    So how much is the service ??

    It would be costly to go up there and grab them, in the style of Elon Musk with returning rockets to a platform. so what will they do, make a nice big landing pad or something ?

    NO! lets just keep them falling out of the sky. China's reign/rain may just be satellites.

    What with all that space junk up there, where a Mylar face panel or a tiny nut hurtling around could spell oblivion for a satellite or astronaut.

    It would be good to clean it up.

    Perhaps China might elect itself Earth's space police and garbage collectors. do stop and wait.

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