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Speeding Object Makes Small Hole In the ISS Solar Array

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the oh-right,-great-peril dept.

ISS 119

New submitter cute_orc writes "The International Space Station has been hit by a small object. Chris Hadfield, an astronaut currently on the ISS, described it in his Twitter feed as 'a small stone from the universe.' He also said he was glad it didn't hit the hull. Jim Scotti, a planetary scientist from the University of Arizona, thinks the object may have had a different origin: 'It's unlikely this was caused by a meteor; more likely a piece of man-made space debris in low Earth orbit.'"

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Any way to see them coming? (3, Interesting)

Rideak (180158) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593293)

I wonder if our radar tech is advanced enough to be able to see these small projectiles in time to intercept them.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (3, Informative)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593365)

Sort of?
We have a project to identify and track all the space-junk we can, but the library is far from complete. Once we know where one is and how fast it's going, it doesn't deviate much from that.

We make a practice of avoid the junk we know about. Intercepting it, on the other hand, is a fools errand. You're talking about shooting a bullet down with a gun. Hypothetically: sure, but in reality, it's not gonna happen.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

sosume (680416) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593385)

Send in the drones!

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

Rideak (180158) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593423)

What about laser weapons? http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/08/17658147-navy-unveils-powerful-ship-mounted-laser-weapon?lite

Maybe it's possible to vaporize the smaller projectiles when there isn't enough time to dodge them.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593445)

What about laser weapons?

That doesn't make hitting them any easier. Plus, those lasers are massive and required a huge amount of power. You're not going to run them off solar cells!

Re:Any way to see them coming? (5, Funny)

dsvick (987919) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593759)

Especially solar cells that keep getting holes punched in them ... sorry, had to ...

oblig: sharks (2)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593507)

Only if they're attached to frickin sharks.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593545)

What exactly makes you think the vaporized chunks aren't capable of doing similar levels of damage? When you're going 10-20 times the speed of sound, it isn't the rigidness of the body that does damage, but the sheer kinetic energy.

Again, the bullet analogy applies. Can you focus a laser pointer on a bullet before it hits you? Your only real hope is to get the target an entire orbit before it reaches you.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (2)

Rideak (180158) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593855)

Well there is a very small amount of atmosphere at the orbit the ISS has, Breaking a projectile up into infinitely small bits would increase the surface area and (admittedly small) drag. Maybe just dispersing them enough that they wouldn't cause any damage.

Another idea would be to heat up one side of the projectile which could vaporize small amounts of the material giving it some thrust. That thrust could push them out of the way.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (2)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593871)

When you vaporize it, it's not going to remain a solid chunk of gas. It will rapidly expand out to local atmospheric pressure. The vast majority of it will blow past you harmlessly on either side. Only a small amount of the matter will actually impact, and that which does impact will be spread out over a lengthened duration.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594601)

It is going to remain a solid chunk of gas for a hefty distance if it travels fast enough. If it expands at 5m/s but travels at 5 km/s, it's still going to impact pretty heavily after traveling 1 km, possibly doing a lot more damage than if it were to remain a rock.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594799)

Ok. I was assuming one would vaporize it at several tens of kilometers (and several seconds) out.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595183)

If it's the size of a pea, it's pretty unlikely to accurate detect, assess and fire upon. If it's an order of magnitude bigger, it's useless to even try shooting it, you'd most likely break it apart and transform one large dangerous object into many smaller dangerous objects.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

imsabbel (611519) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595179)

Sorry, but gas molecules are WAAAAAY faster. At temperatures hot enough to vaporize the crap, it will be in the km/s range.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595237)

Okay. Not a physicist so I believe you :)

Re:Any way to see them coming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593549)

What have you accomplished by vaporizing it? Why use a laser when you can point a mirror or array of mirrors? You can create a lot of heat very quickly with some mirrors in space. But, again, what have you accomplished by vaporizing it? Now you have the same mass in the same orbital plane, and it's likely to now be spherical.

I suspect it would be much better to warm it up adequately to flash off one surface in a deorbit maneuver, but I haven't done the math.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593831)

But we're talking about something tiny, irregular, and virtually impossible to determine the angular momentum of. Deorbitting would be a nightmare.

My hypothesis is that we won't be able to handle individual space junk in a proactive manner without first developing artificial gravity(probably impossible).

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year and a half ago | (#43596607)

What have you accomplished by vaporizing it?

Consider the difference between having your head exposed in a sandstorm and being hit in the head with a rock thrown by a major league pitcher.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (4, Informative)

Lightsider01 (2174720) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593775)

Vaporizing them isn't going to help much and it takes too much energy. It also has the risk of generating *more* space junk, just smaller. However, there is a proposal to use lasers against the growing cloud of space junk in orbit. This plan, however, isn't to vaporize them. The plan is to use the small momentum generated by photons to cause the junk to deorbit. http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-04/29/laser-space-junk [wired.co.uk]

Re:Any way to see them coming? (3, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594149)

Sort of?
We have a project to identify and track all the space-junk we can, but the library is far from complete. Once we know where one is and how fast it's going, it doesn't deviate much from that.

We make a practice of avoid the junk we know about. Intercepting it, on the other hand, is a fools errand. You're talking about shooting a bullet down with a gun. Hypothetically: sure, but in reality, it's not gonna happen.

Only above a certain size (1cm or so?), and yes, they do deviate because they hit things while they orbit.

Even worse is that, you cannot intercept them because you risk making the problem worse - one large piece of debris is easier to deal with than many smaller pieces, and the smaller pieces often form clouds of debris which can cover a larger area, which create more debris as they hit more stuff.

There is a critical point where we would effectively be trapped because the space debris would cause chain reactions which spray off more debris, which hit off more stuff and make more debris, etc. Like an uncontrolled nuclear reaction.

The only way to clean it up is to deorbit it, and orbital mechanics say to do that, you can only decelerate it (your orbit altitude is determined by your speed - go faster, you go higher. Go slower, you go lower)

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | about a year and a half ago | (#43597501)

How about releasing large clouds of gas in front of a cloud of debris? Wouldn't that deaccelerate it, and then dissipate?

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594619)

With bullet often having speeds and in some cases mass orders of magnitude greater then actual bullets. And in situation where anything you shoot will cause recoil significant enough to force you to counter-fire to offset it.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594903)

Once we know where one is and how fast it's going, it doesn't deviate much from that.

On the contrary, stuff in LEO wanders all over the place (relatively speaking) - not only is the Earth's gravitational field "lumpy", there's atmospheric drag a surprising distance out (and it varies over time), there's light pressure and the solar wind too... That's why it's such a big damn job to keep track of the stuff, and why they sometimes have to move the station's orbit unexpectedly.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

krept (697623) | about a year and a half ago | (#43596061)

We need some kind of wedge.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | about a year and a half ago | (#43597485)

Sort of?
We have a project to identify and track all the space-junk we can, but the library is far from complete. Once we know where one is and how fast it's going, it doesn't deviate much from that.

We make a practice of avoid the junk we know about. Intercepting it, on the other hand, is a fools errand. You're talking about shooting a bullet down with a gun. Hypothetically: sure, but in reality, it's not gonna happen.

We have gotten quite good at hitting things moving at 3000 mph (anti-sat/anti-ballistic missile). And for this application you don't even have to hit it, just know where it's going to be. Technically it's challenging, but certainly doable. The prohibitive part is the cost of launching several very heavy things. Maybe a laser type device for very small pieces?

Re:Any way to see them coming? (2)

Ashenkase (2008188) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593379)

Intercepting "these small projectiles" is not a good idea since they are travelling at orbital velocities (25000km per hour).

Picking these objects up on radar and performing an avoidance maneuver is what the ISS has traditionally done when faced with an inevitable intercept. If the maneuver cannot be performed in time the astronauts and cosmonauts hunker down in the Soyuz capsules in case they need to make a "speedy" departure from the station.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (4, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593581)

Actually I believe current mapping is of objects down to a sizable fraction of a meter - the stuff that would likely cripple or destroy a spacecraft on impact no matter where it hit. For smaller stuff - pebbles, nuts and bolts, etc. that will still easily punch a hole through anything it hits we don't have the infrastructure in place to do a meaningful orbital mapping and must reply on luck and kinetic shielding - often many, many layers of material that can get "blown off" on impact, dissipating projectile energy before it reaches the inner hull (I don't know if the ISS uses that technique or not)

Re:Any way to see them coming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43595113)

Actually, I think that Whipple shields have been getting installed on the ISS. They're simply thin sheets which are mounted parallel to the hull. Tiny objects will vaporize on impact, so a more diffuse plasma burst hits the hull.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | about a year and a half ago | (#43597513)

Actually, I think that Whipple shields have been getting installed on the ISS. They're simply thin sheets which are mounted parallel to the hull. Tiny objects will vaporize on impact, so a more diffuse plasma burst hits the hull.

There are cool videos of whipple shield testing with a hydrogen gas gun, pretty cool. Is Whipple someone's name?

Re:Any way to see them coming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43597557)

We track (generally) everything above 10 cm in width. Anything above 1 cm is big enough to go through just about any protection you can reasonably put in space.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (4, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594487)

> Intercepting "these small projectiles" is not a good idea since they are travelling at orbital velocities (25000km per hour).

Their speed relative to Earth has no bearing on it; what matters is the relative speed between the random object and the object you wish to protect, just as the fact that we revolve around the sun at 30 km/s has zero impact ;) on how long it takes you to drive to work (or hop on your bike for cheetos and mountain dew for those who cannot relate because they still live in mommy's basement ;)). If they could launch an interceptor from the protected vehicle to divert or simply absorb kinetic energy and slow it to a harmless relative velocity, then it would be a success - whether or not more junk is created. I think protecting lives against an immediate threat in that situation is more important than the concern of additional junk.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595533)

Most stuff in the same orbit altitude should be travelling at roughly the same speed. Therefore this would be something in a wildly eccentric or kilted orbit, or retrograde.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43597467)

"Most stuff in the same orbit altitude should be travelling at roughly the same speed."

But not neccessarily in the same direction... just because that semi is also on the freeway, doesn't mean it's going your way...

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595151)

I wonder if you could launch a giant tank of expanding foam, or a similar but more space-friendly material, that slowly decomposes. Cheap enough to orbit a swarm of foamballs. Small bits of space junk would get lodged inside or at least slowed down in the process or punching a hole. Then the foamball, having a huge size and very little mass, will be slowed by atmospheric drag and fall out of orbit after a few years. Any fragments that break off and get left behind will slowly decompose under the influence of ultraviolet radiation into dust particles too fine to pose any hazard.

That sounds like it could work. Slashdotters, shoot it down!

Re:Any way to see them coming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43595873)

I have been thinking of the same thing for a couple of years now....

Some sort of big sponge in the sky to sweep up the debris and then burn up on re-entry when is has accumulated enough junk that is gets to heavy to maintain orbit or shed enough speed to de-orbit.

Problem with that is that it would get in the way of satellites and stuff that have a legitimate need to be in those orbits.
So it needs a propulsion system to steer it clear from legit "stuff in space".

It doesn't seem all that complicated or expensive...
A triangular sheet of some foam (think several layers of bubble wrap) of a light-weight material like mylar, with a kevlar "fishing net" as backing to give it some strength and a small ion-engine at each corner to keep the sheet spread open and move it around.
It wouldn't be that bulky to launch or heavy to launch either.
(The propulsion system can do the pulling open of the sheet.)
You can probably put several on a single Ariane-5 or Falcon-9.

   

Re:Any way to see them coming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593413)

Another issue to consider is the speed of the object and the size of the space station. In order to avoid a object that is moving fast enough to puncture a hole in the space station would require a lot of power, Not to mention the potential issues aboard the space station from a sudden shift.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

durrr (1316311) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594243)

The ISS routinely use its thruster systems to dodge space debris. You need to know of the object quite some time before though.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594097)

<quote><p>I wonder if our radar tech is advanced enough to be able to see these small projectiles in time to intercept them.</p></quote>

If "your radar tech" is as good as the Phanlanx CIWS the answer is no. If "your radar tech" is as good as the Goalkeeper CIWS they might stand a chance.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594159)

A better question is what could do once we detect them. Those things travel quite fast, and something tells me the ISS isn't nimble enough to start dodging small rocks in space.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43594351)

well detecting small meteors yeah I don't think the ISS has the maneuverability to dodge them. If it's actually space junk and it has been mapped, they could try and predict when and how it's going to hit. Then they could maneuver either out of the way or hopefully reduce the damage it causes.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595177)

This is space. If you know even an hour in advance, and can manage a delta-V of even one-tenth of a meter per second, you can shift your position by 1.8KM. There's no friction, so a gentle nudge will carry you a long way. The important part is to know in advance - there are programs to track space junk, but spotting pebbles, screws and paint-flecks is a bit much for even the best radar.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595191)

Oh, did the calculation wrong. Not 1.8KM, but only 0.36KM. Which is still more than enough to easily dodge any piece of space junk. Even if the thrusters are off, I suspect you could get enough delta-V by having someone suit up and hammer-throw refuse out the airlock.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595875)

Something tells me we're not going to have an hour of advanced notice on a small baseball-sized object traveling 25,000 mph towards us.

Re:Any way to see them coming? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595427)

Radar won't see anything smaller than its own wavelength, but with present technology, objects that small are still dangerous.

Don't bother with the article. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593349)

This is basically a "SOMETHING HAPPENED! But that's all we know" story. You'll get just as much reading this summary.

Re:Don't bother with the article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593371)

One of the few times when RTFA doesn't apply.

Re:Don't bother with the article. (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593881)

LATFP: look at the fucking picture. Because that's about it.

A constant reminder (1)

earlzdotnet (2788729) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593359)

Space is scary and dangerous. I do wonder how fast this projectile was probably going though? I'd assume the hull is pretty thick, but how fast would a projectile have to go to cut through it?

Re:A constant reminder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593453)

Except they state that they didn't believe it was a space rock, and that it was most likely a piece of trash from us.

Also, it didn't go through the hull. (which your post seems to imply)

Re:A constant reminder (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593467)

LEO velocities are in the 7-8km/s range, which is around 17,000 mph, or around mach 20. There's not much that will stop something at those velocities - in fact that's why the lunar lander was covered in essentially dozens of layers of aluminum foil - so the energy from any impact would "explode" the outer layers and not penetrate the inner hull.

Re:A constant reminder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593483)

Space is scary and dangerous. I do wonder how fast this projectile was probably going though? I'd assume the hull is pretty thick, but how fast would a projectile have to go to cut through it?

0m/s, the ISS is going fast enough (~7,700m's) to be it's own butter through hot knife.

Re:A constant reminder (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593509)

Orbital speed is ~7.7 km/s at that altitude, so unless it is traveling in the same direction they are, the most probable speed was somewhere upwards of 7 km/s (if it was orbiting in the other direction, 15km/s). Enough to put a hole in just about anything. That's assuming it was in orbit, if it was a meteor and not manmade, it could have been going almost any speed (but probably still a few km/s at a minimum).

Re:A constant reminder (1)

ThreeKelvin (2024342) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593521)

The hull is most likely not that thick. It's only there to keep the air pressure high enough that the astronauts can breathe it and be sturdy enough that they don't poke their fingers through it by accident.

Also, a thicker hull wouldn't protect them from space junk etc. The junk is traveling at orbital velocity (otherwise it wouldn't be in orbit) so any impact is likely to penetrate the hull, no matter the thickness.

Every kg to space is expensive, so hull thickness most likely isn't a top priority.

Re:A constant reminder (2)

kimvette (919543) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594511)

> The hull is most likely not that thick.

Spacecraft hulls (aside from reentry vehicles and the space shuttle) has been compared to foil. It's not that thin, but I'd guess based on descriptions (and without googling) that it would be approximately the same as a soda pop can.

Re:A constant reminder (2)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year and a half ago | (#43596675)

A quick search returns results from greater than 4 mm, down to 1.27 mm plus a multilayer coating of insulation plus ballistic fabric.

Re:A constant reminder (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593543)

What was space like, dad?

Cold, empty, and full of radiation.

Re:A constant reminder (2)

Cito (1725214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593781)

sounds like mom

Re:A constant reminder (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594101)

Space is scary and dangerous.

I was going to say that I love my atmosphere because it makes me feel all cozy and warm, but I'm supposed to get snow this week.. In May.

DAMMIT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593393)

Scotty, more power to the main deflector shield!!!!!

Points at space station (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593403)

Shut up, Chi!

So which one is it? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593431)

A Small Stone from the Universe? Or man-made space debris in low Earth Orbit?

That's NASA for you - Never A Straight Answer.

I'll tell you what it is, the first answer is the correct one - from the horses mouth. The seconds answer was the forced-so-say political one to get funding by some dumbass from US who was paid to say so. space junk!! its killing us! (bullshit) Push that earth agenda forward while the spacemen tell the truth.

A small stone (5, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593435)

"A small stone from the universe"

Not to be confused the all of the rocks being thrown at us from outside of the Universe.

Re:A small stone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593503)

Hendrix was a genius.

Re:A small stone (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594589)

Deflect it with a phase shifter? ;D

Red Alert! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593473)

We're under attack!! Quick nuke Mars!

thinks the object may have had a different origin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593475)

"Chris Hadfield, an astronaut currently on the ISS, described it in his Twitter feed as 'a small stone from the universe"

"Jim Scotti, a planetary scientist from the University of Arizona, thinks the object may have had a different origi"

So, *outside* of the universe!? :O

WTF?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593493)

What good are shields if they're not going to keep them operative at ALL times! Can they explain this one? Shields at 0% ?

Re:WTF?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593579)

Star Trek isn't real you know.

Re:WTF?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43594033)

what?

really.. what ?

If you tell me Beverly Crusher is fictional too I'm gonna cry.

Re:WTF?? (5, Funny)

Eowaennor (527108) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593631)

Their ZPM may be close to depleted

Re:WTF?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43596183)

Seriously though, isn't it a bit short sighted to not be monitoring debris with the growing amount of space trash combined with the potential for dust and asteroid fragments? There is real risk to the amount of money invested in the research, so it seems best to anticipate space more complex than a vacuum. I must admit my first thought was "WTF!". If they can't monitor near-earth debris, it seems that there must be significant error in the monitoring of near-earth comets, so that would mean that government funded institutions might be unable to do their job effectively when disasters like 9/11 actually occur. My reasoning may seem like a large leap, but given the government's ability to consume money for stability rather than competence, I think it is a very real and pressing issue that will continue to go ignored. The government is only able to be reactive, while it is fighting to survive (with its 20% of American employment).

Meanwhile in North Korea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593499)

...Kim Jong-Un was only trying to skip a rock.

Different origin? (1)

bazmail (764941) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593575)

"Chris Hadfield, an astronaut currently on the ISS, described it in his Twitter feed as 'a small stone from the universe.'"

"Jim Scotti, a planetary scientist from the University of Arizona, thinks the object may have had a different origin:"

really? do tell

Could have been worse (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593623)

Lucky this wasn't a bolt through the window...

Why don't they just ... (0)

G33kDragon (699950) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593705)

... polarize the hull?

Dumb, dumb question but asking anyway (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593747)

People keep talking about using lasers to zap these particles or sending up drones to collect them, both of which are highly unfeasible.

However, what if, and I'm just spitballing here, what if instead of a laser you use a reflective surface to bounce the photons of light from the sun into the path of these particles and let this tiny push alter the course lower?

You wouldn't need to be precise as the reflected light would cut a large swath and having the particle pass through the light at speed wouldn't be an issue. In fact, since we are tracking thousands of these particles already, the reflector could be positioned such that it would bounce the light towards the oncoming particles, thus slowing them down as well as degrading their orbit (albeit slightly).

Obviously I'm oversimplifying so go ahead and call me out.

Re:Dumb, dumb question but asking anyway (3, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593923)

A laser isn't as unfeasible as you might think. All it has to do is ablate a tiny bit of material from the target, enough to raise it's apogee a bit which then pushes the perigee deeper into the atmosphere causing it to fall out of orbit relatively quickly (a handful of orbits later). The idea isn't to spot an incoming rock and zap it away, it's to keep the general orbit clear of debris. And the best part is, using adaptive optics, it's possible to base such a system on the ground.

Re:Dumb, dumb question but asking anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43594137)

I don't think they can afford to reflect that light back into space, they need it to power the station.

Re:Dumb, dumb question but asking anyway (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594655)

... using adaptive optics, it's possible to base such a system on the ground.

Bolded, since you apparently missed it the first time around.

Raise the shields! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43594001)

With all of the other tech we developed from Star Trek, where are the shields when we need them?

Re:Raise the shields! (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594639)

Right up there with warp drive, universal translators, and a non currency based economy, apparently.

Oh, ..and the Vulcan neck pinch. Why isn't there a real Vulcan neck pinch? Every other kid I knew when I was a little kid bought into that.

Much better than I expected (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594063)

I've read theories that debris hitting the station would blow things apart, not punch through.

Re:Much better than I expected (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year and a half ago | (#43596749)

To some extent it depends on the size and speed of the impacting object, however in most cases this is going to be like a high speed bullet (very high speed, 8X normal) hitting a sheet of metal. It either dents it like a bullet hitting a highway sign or punches through. For things to be blown apart, the initial impact would have to be large enough and fast enough and have the right substances involved to cause a lot of shrapnel, which blows out the far side.

Where's your solar power now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43594099)

Oil wouldn't have been affected.

Speeding in space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43594175)

So what exactly is the speed limit for moving objects in space?

Only speed limit I know is light speed so it must have been going faster than that then?

Meteor? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594209)

As long as it didn't come from the Arachnid Quarantine Zone, I think we'll be ok. I'm sure Beunos Aires was reassured by the news.

Re:Meteor? (1)

Zynder (2773551) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594825)

I would like to know more!

Re:Meteor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43596341)

Orbital Construction (1)

BeCre8iv (563502) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594303)

If it could be used as raw materials, its value (and cost of processing) would compete with payload costs.

at least for now, collect it into larger, manageable chunks.

Give credit where it's due... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43594333)

Chris Hadfield isn't 'just' an astronaut on the ISS, he's currently the ISS Commander.

Re:Give credit where it's due... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43596715)

So... an astronaut, in other words. He's an astronaut, and he can be fucking happy about it, or not. End of story.

I was looking for that... (2)

bkmoore (1910118) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594473)

I was looking for that socket wrench I lost on Skylab 2...

Smart move ... (2)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595105)

... would be to sleep in the bathtub from now on.

Tracer (1)

Rocco Tannino (2911689) | about a year and a half ago | (#43596177)

"Ok the tracer hit the station, now load the real projectile"

Rule of Deer in the Road (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43596239)

When you see one there's another right behind it

Amime link (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year and a half ago | (#43596459)

A related anime link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetes

Use a high-power Q-switched laser (1)

smaddox (928261) | about a year and a half ago | (#43596843)

I'm sure the people interested in solving this problem already know this, but they could use a high-power Q-switched laser (to allow pulsing) with a large, steerable, variable-focus lens (probably the most difficult part of this solution) to vaporize small bits of the objects, and force them into the upper atmosphere to burn up.

As said, such a system could be quite difficult and expensive to design. First of all, it would require a very large lense or mirror system to reach tightly focused beams at long distances. A mirror system might be preferable for dynamic adjustments. Next, it would need to be mounted on a gyroscopic turret, to allow aiming (or the whole satellite could turn). Finally, you would need quite a bit of power to make any significant debris course adjustments in a reasonable amount of time.

None-the-less, we have all the requisite technology. With a couple billion dollars we could probably put up a prototype system. Although, there are international treaties against space weaponization that would probably get in the way.

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