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Dr. Strangelove and How I Learned to Love Space Debris
by Launchspace Staff
Bethesda MD (SPX) Mar 08, 2012

illustration only

The whole issue of space debris smacks of Peter Sellers' character in Dr. Strangelove where one hand was trying to do the opposite of the other.

This is much like the U.S. government's approach to solving the space debris problem.It is much like the U.S. government's approach to solving the space debris problem.

On the one hand, new satellites continue to be launched into orbits which are already overly congested with space debris and other operating satellites. On the other hand, there is a worldwide outcry for a debris solution.

The bottom line is that there is no way to clean up congested orbits in an effective/affordable way. We have clearly passed the point of no return.

The amount of debris already in orbit is more than enough to create a "no-fly" zone in the next decade or two. That "zone" corresponds to the altitude range from about 700 km to 1100 km.

Many have proposed methods of removing debris through the use of lasers, tethers, space garbage cans, nets, water sprays and many other things.

None of these has a chance of effectively removing sufficient debris to maintain the zone safe for future satellite operations.

The obvious conclusion is that future generations will not have access to many of the orbits that have been so popular for the past 50 years. They will have to find new ways to use the near-earth space environment, or not use space at all.

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Cleaning up Earth's orbit A Swiss satellite tackles space debris
Zurich, Switzerland (SPX) Feb 17, 2012
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