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Scientists May Use Explosion-Powered Fans to Destroy Space Debris

Written by on Monday, April 9th, 2012

A while ago, we covered the growing need to track, catalog, and potentially destroy the cloud of orbital space debris circling Earth. So far, solutions have ranged from the high tech to the relatively simple. While scientists are coming up with creative solutions to the problem, a new method might allow us to safely and effectively remove debris from orbit.

The idea is to use balloons to float a platform to the upper atmosphere, and then use a high quantity of fuel to blast enormous clouds of air into space. This plume of air will drag the target as it moves through the cloud, causing it to slow down enough to reenter Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up. The air, much like the debris it was used to stop, would eventually be pulled back to the Earth by gravity.

This solution actually seems rather promising because it solves the problem of space debris without exacerbating the issue. Other solutions, such as the Swiss janitor satellite, have a chance of failing and creating valium online pharmacy more space junk. Even if they fail, these blasts of air cannot possibly add to the problem of junk-ridden skies.

As appealing as this method seems, it has one major drawback. Creating an air burst of that size requires an enormous explosion. Experts at Raytheon BBN Technologies estimate that each explosion would need about 500 gallons of fuel. The viability of this technique will be seriously limited by the cost of energy.

This issue highlights the major problem facing scientists as they search for a solution to clean up our skies. It’s possible to remove the junk from orbit — the technology already exists. With nearly 17,000 pieces of junk flying around Earth at incredibly high speeds, most of which being no larger than 10 cm, finding a solution that is actually efficient is the number one concern. Quite simply, the governments of the world do not have the money or resources to cause 17,000 air burst explosions or 17,000 janitor satellites to solve this growing problem.

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