This makes it sound like it was some sort of an unique event. ISS has huge surface area, and MMOD impacts are practically routine, damaging all sorts of equipment - radiators, batteries, pumps, solar panels, and even heatshields and windows (Cupola windows got hit by debris a couple times, so now they are kept closed when not in use).
>The ISS impact database is maintained at the NASA/JSC by the Hypervelocity Impact Technology (HVIT) group. The database contains over 1,400 records of impact damage from ground-based observations of space-exposed hardware returned from ISS
>MMOD damage areas of interest acquired from EVA and IVA sources mentioned here are collected in an image database managed by the Image Science and Analysis Group at the Johnson Space Center (JSC). There are currently 380 records tagged as “MMOD” in the database, although it should be noted that some of these records include multiple MMOD damages (i.e., there are more than 380 MMOD impacts represented in this database).
And that's only the detected ones. Even detecting the strikes in orbit is hard; automation of all sorts is being developed for this job. (strain sensors, microphones, ML-assisted visual analysis etc)
You'd think that opening the windows in space was a bad idea anytime.
Meteor may be a tad vague.
“What do you mean it’s not Chicxulub proof?”
Also to distribute it ~evenly around the station.
Fun-fact: The training bicycle needs to be suspended otherwise the whole station would start to wiggle/vibrate which can damage the solar-panels...because of one little human on a bike ;)
A perfect example is a large water pump, a 250hp electric pump draws approximately 150kW (480v 3ph, around 300-310 amps).
(Deep apologies for how behind my sites are - recovering and working on it)
I don't think unique events are generally described as inevitable?
Whereas the reality here is "this happens all the time, including a minute ago".
They're very different messages.
Space junk is such an example. After you launch your satellite and it does it work and then becomes obsolete, there is very low to no incentive to remove the waste in a good manner.
Nature usually works differently in that there is some kind of waste harvest process that recycles the waste into a renewable process.
This is called a negative externality, and it's been understood by economists for about a century. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality#Negative
One of the reasons negative externalities persist is that they're hard to put a price on. How would you calculate the economic cost of the marginal piece of space junk?
In practice governments will have to do their best to impose reasonable frictions, by taxing launches or otherwise regulating them. But I think it's more correct to call this a genuinely hard problem in economics, as opposed to a bug.
We've been saying "in practice governments must impose reasonable frictions" since the 1970s at least, with the reentry of ecological concerns into public consciousness in the west, and still we've barely begun
We barrel down this road under the guidance of a great many economists for a hundred years or more despite our "understanding" this genuinely hard problem? Are we mad? Suicidal?
Unfortunately, our laws are made by politicians, who are beholden to the voters, who aren't tremendously well versed in theoretical tax policy, so we end up with silly things like corporate income taxes and rent control even though they're massively unpopular among almost all economists, regardless of political leaning.
I think the real question is: Why have economists been so damn ineffective? What can they do differently to spread their ideas?
If economics is like most academic disciplines it likely has its share of pathological incentive structures, genuflection to special interests, overpromising, for instance
And not sure we should expect to find a comprehensive answer to a question like "why is our system the way it is" in a single unambiguous sentence or cause
Properly understood, economics has always been harnessed as a tool to maximize profit for the rich, a bit like shady "doctors" for elite athletes administering performance-enhancing drugs, optimizing their short-term gains at the expense of long-term consequences, completely unlike real doctors who look out for the general well-being of patients. There are few economists who care about long-term consequences that actually influence policymakers.
* For some other satellites, there are plans to move them to a graveyard orbit when they are no longer useful. Of course, this requires the satellite to take action, so it cannot be done if the satellite would become unresponsive.
* In some cases, orbits are selected that will degrade quite quickly even when the satellite is non-responsive. IIRC, Starlink satellites would deorbit in a matter of months.
* Active research is also being done w.r.t. deorbiting satellites at end of life (e.g. with a sail ).
To launch anything you have to get various approvals. Those approval processes are becoming stricter in their requirements for end-of-life planning. This should help lessen the effects of the bug you describe.
Of course, there are situations that are not accounted for in those plans. If some malfunction causes a satellite to e.g. explode in orbit, it will leave behind a lot of space debris, and any deorbiting plans requiring action on the part of the satellite are useless. So what I described above helps, but doesn't fix the issue completely.
This was eventually remedied.
Modern economists have since done a huge amount of work on this topic and multiple noble prices have been given to work on the subject.
The idea that it is inherently a capitalist problem is nonsense, its a universal problem that exists in all human societies from hunter-gather to soviet socialism and all forms of capitalism. It can not be 'fully patched' in any system of human interaction. Humans have found millions of solution for the problem in a million different ways, there is no universal solution.
I would recommend Elinor Ostrom work to illustrate this and how such situation can be solved. She had worked on this problem for 40+ and got a noble price for it.
Other things to read are, Ronald Coase, Armen Alchian, Douglass North.
Also, even if China was a command economy that doesn't mean they too couldn't cause pollution. Its just that "the tragedy of the commons" is a specifically market economy problem.
A while capitalism encourages the tragedy of the commons and communism has the potential of solving it, it doesn't mean it will. Communism is a better system in theory, but from experience, it doesn't work as well in practice.
And the solution is essentially using force. Someone will guard the cookie jar and make sure you don't take more than one. Workers are supposed to form a collective to enforce these rules.
For example, you don't just launch a satellite, you tell the state you want to launch a satellite and if some council decides it will have a positive impact on society, you will be paid you a fixed salary to build it. This way, you can take a step back and think about the whole process, from start to finish and not just the money making part, there are no competitors to undercut you.
At least that's theory. In practice it is very vulnerable to corruption and it doesn't incentivizes productive work.
Sounds like private property to me.
The gatekeeper tries to defend the commons and, even assuming they succeed, they can themselves abuse the commons or collect bribes, etc.
> In practice it is very vulnerable to corruption and it doesn't incentivizes productive work.
"Space junk that can hit the ISS" and "space junk that's a long-term problem" are two nearly separate groups.
There'll be crap coming down for thousands of years, including some nasty cold war relics like nuclear reactor cores.
edit: 2019 paper listing over 1400 detected impact sites on ISS.
Of course, the fact that there's more and more space debris is quite clearly linked to everything we launch.
The difference in location means that while more natural debris enters earth's atmosphere, that doesn't mean that chances of colliding with natural debris is commensurately high. Orbital debris spends much more time near earth before it burns up, so has much higher collision chances per object that burns up.
In fact, the chance of collision with natural debris vs orbital debris will be very dependent on the specific orbit you are discussing as orbital debris is not evenly distributed.
I higly doubt that there isn't a significant range of orbits where the risk of damage from orbital debris exceeds the risk from natural debris.
Edit: added citations
Whether or not the amount of extra space debris has already caused an increase in collisions is a different matter, for which some statistics would be required. But that wasn't the point I was making.
In fact, it's quite the opposite of the point I was making : something has hit the ISS, and whether it's man-made or natural is (AFAIK) not specified at this time.
For what it is worth, I would question this assumption. Why would the amount of natural space debris around earth be at a steady state? Meteor showers  are one example of how the amount of space debris is not at a steady state.
 Meteor Showers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_shower
This paper (2019) lists over 1400 impact sites on the ISS, and that is only the ones that have been discovered.
The orbital graveyard is 35,000km. Assuming you are right and our biggest concern is regular space rocks, then why are these areas of especially high concern?
If you saying that the distribution of space rocks should be constantly high like what we see in our rings of trash. But it's not. Earth practically has rings that we can detect. Where did all that material come from? Why is the density of space trash detectably higher the closer to earth you get?
Before you say gravity, remember that these things are in stable orbit. Wandering space rocks have a very low chance of achieving that without intervention.
This is definitely not true. I don't know why you would expect a 3+ body gravity system would result in an even distribution of natural debris.
I simply don't see any facts to backup your thesis that natural debris are a greater risk than orbital debris to spacecraft in earth orbit (esp the lower orbits).
(3R's was a campaign manufactured by the plastics industry to shift environmental blame onto individuals rather than what industry could've done, such as: waste stream capture, lifecycle management, material minimization, minimum recycled content, and so on.)
A good idea coming from a bad source doesn't stop it from being a good idea though so I'm not sure why people bring this up so much.
Individuals and companies both have a responsibility to reduce waste.
The problem at the moment lies not so much in waste collection and end users, but what happens to it afterwards. For example, plastic is considered "recycled" once it's been separated and baled up. But most plastic can't actually be reused. A lot of plastic bales like that are exported - no longer our problem - and becomes invisible. It's often just put in landfills or incinerated after that. Would not be surprised if it's dumped in the ocean directly or via a river either.
> Starting in the late 1980s, the plastics industry spent tens of millions of dollars promoting recycling through ads, recycling projects and public relations, telling people plastic could be and should be recycled.
How long have we known about this for now? At what stage does denouncing it become its own form of diversion?
> Industry Spent Millions Selling Recycling — To Sell More Plastic
> For decades, Americans have been sorting their trash believing that most plastic could be recycled. But the truth is, the vast majority of all plastic produced can't be or won't be recycled.
So yeah, the companies are keen on having public opinion thinking “consume without fear, we’ll recycle it”, because it has higher margin than being cleaner themselves. Fighting disinformation is not diinformation.
But who is still loudly saying this disinformation and who is taking it seriously that it's worth bringing up whenever someone mentions that recycling is worthwhile? "Reduce, reuse, recycle" is in priority order too.
LEO stuff is going to deorbit due to drag anyway sooner or later, and we very much would like that to be ”sooner”. Higher orbits are stable for a long time, and intentional deorbiting is not feasible anyway due to the amount of delta-v needed. So there are ”graveyard orbits” into which satellites should be moved before they’re out of propellant.
Anyway, intercepting and capturing defunct satellites on a large scale would be surprisingly costly because of the large variety of orbital planes involved. Inclination changes are expensive with regard to delta-v!
This is Earth orbit, not the ocean or some strip of land.
The debris zooms around the planet on all kinds of trajectories and it's immensely difficult to match velocity and direction in order to capture it.
It's worse than trying to collect machine gun bullets mid-flight that were fired from a rotating carousel by a guy with shaking hands...
Some parts, like spent second rocket stages, present some value because they could be reused as wet-workshops . Material value alone, however, doesn't justify the cost of capture in most cases.
I do not believe this is true. The 3R's is widely believed to have come out of the first Earth Day in 1970.
While the oil and plastics companies did put a lot of effort into promoting the idea of plastic recycling, those efforts were later and didn't really start until 1989.
You can see the effect of atmospheric drag and resulting decay for LEO objects. And how catastrophic collisions are.
Edit: And original source https://mads-hatters.github.io/
This made curious how much more space you get, so I did some maths.
According to Wikipedia, LEO is basically anything below 2000KM, so we'll call 1000KM the average.
Geostationary orbit is apparently 35,786KM above the surface (at the equator. The earth is not a perfect sphere).
The diameter of the earth is 12,742KM, making the circumference of this LEO ~43,171KM
Let's say there's 10KM between every piece of debris, meaning you can fit 4317 piece of debris into this orbit. (that's not how it really works of course, this is just an arbitary number to use as a comparison).
At geostationary orbit, the circumference is ~152,000KM, meaning the same 4317 pieces of debris would now be ~35KM apart instead. Or you could fit 15,200 peices of debris in, still spaced 10KM apart. Or you could say you have ~252% more space at the higher orbit.
I have to object the phrasing debris blanket here though. If you compare low orbit (where most of this stuff is) to the combined surface areas of our oceans, it's larger because it also includes the surface area of our landmass and you have to take into account the larger sphere radius of an extra 100km.
Just driving the point home that it's a pretty big surface area if you assume it's effectively 2D. Which of course it isn't. If you then add the third dimension with say a couple of hundred kilometer that make up low earth orbit, the probability of hitting anything drops pretty low. That stuff should be extremely rare.
There's a bit of debris in orbit. Some of the larger bits, we track. Of course if you do hit something, the speed differences mean a collision can do some real damage.
Compared to naturally occurring stuff (meteorites, space rocks, etc) it's not that much of an additional risk. ISS does get hit by that stuff occasionally. A bigger rock (pebble sized) could do a lot of damage. I don't think that has happened yet. It's a non zero risk but an acceptable one.
So you'd have to think of the debris as miles long strands, and suddenly it seems quite likely to hit one.
Do you have a citation for this?
Higher orbits would last essentially forever though.
These tiny objects aren't that disastrous either. From what I understand, the insulating blankets destroy them and dissipate their energy, limiting damage to the underlying structure.
I’m fairly hopeful that it is a problem with a solution once there is adequate motivation.
Most spacefaring countries have adopted a rule of getting low-earth-orbit objects out of space within 25 years of their mission's end-of-life.
Some (though relatively few) objects are in high orbits. These will take millenia - the good news is that they are also relatively slow, which makes them easier to avoid.
And then we have people shooting their sportscar into space on an orbit that will last virtually indefinitely.
This is not true. Higher orbits do circle the earth less frequently...but that is not because they are slower, but because they have further to go. In fact, the higher your orbit, the faster you are going.
Why do they always do this, give a non-standard unit of measurement which 90% of countries in the world for no reference for.
Its like when they describe something as "X number of football fields" - Nice one, only one country plays and misnames Handegg. its useless to the rest of us.
My favourite so far would be "burger per square eagle", which is a unit of distance.
It's actually sort of a puzzle - you have to imagine how to interpret the units so that they match the result.
I remember starting off using someone's idea to take a bald eagle's average wingspan (2.7m - which is incorrect BTW). What follows is that the burger must represent volume - I modeled the burger as a half sphere with a diameter of 13cm, which yielded ~500ccm - sounded believable enough.
The only issue remaining was that the unit was very small - a small fraction of a millimetre.
Then again measuring things in megaburgers (per square eagle) sounds fairly natural - a lot like kilometres or kilograms.
I had to google what it is.
In Chinese it's called "olive ball".
I understand South Korea plays it.
Imagine all the things you would need to do if you were running a marathon on a course that alternated half a dozen times between a blizzard and a death valley heat wave... you would have to work with many many constraints and come up with a solution that worked for opposite extremes while not interfering with the thing you’re actually trying to do.
Of course, if there's a CPU in there that's drawing lots of power (e.g. image processing), it will have to shed that heat. But if there's only some electronics in there that don't eat up too much power, there's a good chance they'll use the thermal blanket (and even heaters) to keep them warm.
I don't have the details on the Canadarm, but I can tell you that a lot of electronics on satellites use thermal blankets and heating elements to keep warm.
A huge part of why the ISS has to move because the uncertainty of the objects is to high. If we can get much more accurate measurements many of these issues become far less important.
Currently its really just the us military who has radar for this. What we should have is multiple nations each having multiple radars.
Beyond that, the next step is laser based ground station that can both get far more accurate measurements and potentially move the items as well. ESA is working on a demonstration of such a system. Again, it would be best if multiple nations had these.
From these two tools we can create a real accurate shared global database with very accurate measure. This alone should massively reduce the amount of near collision events.
Then beyond that we can start to launch missions to actually capture debris from higher orbits and throw make it burn up. ESA has also planned a demonstration mission for that.
To really do that right we really want to have a reusable space transporter that can be refueled from some sort of cheap space fuel truck that can ride along on SpaceX flights.
We can figure this out. Some DoD people have already talked about putting a price on individual objects so a commercial garbage removal market can start to happen. And with SpaceX Starship launch prices should get down to prices where these things can be done much cheaper.
If you speak German this is a great resources: https://raumzeit-podcast.de/2020/11/17/rz092-weltraumschrott...
Satellite laser ranging is also nothing new, it's used for GNSS and other satellites requiring determination accuracy. But current instruments mostly work with retroreflectors on the satellites, and the coverage is a problem since the orbit can only be predicted for a limited amount of time.
The nations are afraid of adding more regulation for sat de-orbiting. Because its easy to add regulation requiring de-orbiting is in place, but if your sat is dead, you don't actually pay for removing it.
The regulation that is needed is that if you leave something behind you have to de-orbit it but since there is no commercial service for this or a known cost, all the nations are afraid to do it, as the sat providers would just leave the country.
Hopefully these things will be demonstrate and there will be an actual price and then you can potentially insure for it.
I fear the military would love to have that capability.
Its mostly useful to move dead objects.
Even if they can move away, that’s using valuable fuel.
I'm not saying that these tests are right but the hypocrisy of these western countries is really baffling at times.
> According to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, some debris might persist for a year, but most should burn up in the atmosphere within several weeks.
The perceived tone of the original post made me comment the previous comment (which is not only true about ASAT missiles but literally everything else). I'm sorry if my judgement of the original post was wrong.
Its unfortunate but countries should invest in anti-satellite technology - especially countries with no bone is the space fight. Should a political situation develop that makes access to satellites advantageous - reducing LEO surveillance satellites to rubble is the best solution.
This testing and development of ASAT weapons is fully a response to the countries putting military technology in space.
Besides, the asymmetrical payoff of developing tech to not only neutralise one-sided strategic mega-advantages only increase in leverage the worse the side-effects of the neutralising action become. The negotiating capital this generates (in the India vs China conflict) makes it an almost forced move.
Passphrase: Cash cow
Privacy is so overrated.
There are tons of ideas and plans that have been put forward there is no lack of those.
There is a lack of international cooperation to establish international law. And even within national regulation there is a unwillingness to fully crack down in fear of driving sat providers away.
I am conflicted because I also know that we will get more progress through lower-cost launches. It feels to me that it shouldn't be only considering launches but rather the entire lifecycle of the operation. The longer we wait the more irreversible damage is done it seems.
Interested in agreement or counterpoints to expand my opinion.
Launch start-ups are the least of your concerns, SpaceX the most established provider is, they are lowering the price far more then any new startup. The start ups are actually very expensive in terms of cost to orbit.
> It feels to me that it shouldn't be only considering launches but rather the entire lifecycle of the operation.
They are, this is already regulated. If you launch something to get a license you have to show how your whole lifecycle will go.
The problem that is left is about what to do when your sat fails and can not complete the lifecycle. As of yet there is no requirement to complete it in such a case.
Such a requirement will come once we reliably demonstrate how to de-orbit dead object and there can be a price put on the service (and therefore instance will insure it).
I think my concern with VC funded start-ups is that they don't have funding to actually do full lifecycle if the company never makes it or if revenue never arrives. In which case the full lifecycle component doesn't really exist.
I wish I could do something about this. What can an “ordinary” civilian in the US do to help? Are we limited to electing politicians with the hope they follow through on a potential campaign promise?
It's the old story: Oh we cut all the trees, time to invent a machine that can extract CO2 from the atmosphere.
Edit: that's an 8 minutes Kurzgesagt video.
Making something that can be hit by random objects at extreme velocities without generating even more debris sounds like a hard problem, though. Ice would be an interesting material because it sublimates, but it happens too quickly to be practically useful.
there are other patents as well
You would assume wrong. Given that putting stuff into orbit is a battle with the rocket equation non-magnetic material should be expected because Iron and Iron containing alloys tend to be very heavy compared to similar structures in non-magnetic materials. Aluminum would be pretty common. Of course some of it will be magnetic but to assume that for the bulk will almost certainly be wrong.
But FY-1C was at an orbit height of 865 kilometres, and the ISS orbits at less than half that altitude.
It's not impossible for debris to have reached the ISS, but it is unlikely.
Scroll down to page three of: https://www.orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/quarterly-news/pdfs/o...
Who thought it would be a great, timeless idea to dump a bunch of copper wire strands at 3.5 Mm? Oh, it was that pinhead: Walter E. Morrow. Thanks for that military-industrial complex contribution to littering. Let's stick a Tesla, Lego, and some dead people in space while we're at it. We did that already too? Why don't you tell me these things? Throw me a frickin bone here, people. Maybe we should think carefully about permanent space garbage or space sunshades before rolling with what seems like a brilliant technical solution?
Space Force Fields!