Feeds

DARPA seeks orbital wheely-bin plan

Must cope with rubbish up to 'derelict spaceship' size

Boost IT visibility and business value

The noted US military bonkers-boffinry bureau, DARPA, announced yesterday that it would like to hear from anyone with ideas for cleaning up the large amounts of space debris orbiting the Earth. Aerospace globocorp Boeing has already indicated that it is interested.

According to DARPA:

Since the advent of the space age over five decades ago, more than thirty-five thousand man-made objects have been cataloged by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network. Nearly twenty-thousand of those objects remain in orbit today, ninety-four percent of which are non-functioning orbital debris. These figures do not include the hundreds-of-thousands of objects too small to be catalogued, but still large enough to pose a threat... collisions between debris objects could potentially lead to a continuously growing debris population, thus increasing the risk to operational satellites.

Since January 2007 we have experienced a nearly fifty percent increase in the number of cataloged debris objects, largely due to the intentional destruction of an active satellite by the Chinese government in 2007, as well as the collision between an active Iridium satellite and a retired Russian communications satellite earlier this year.

Owing to the tremendous speeds of objects in orbit, and the fact that satellites and spacecraft must be as lightly built as possible to save on launch costs, even a tiny piece of debris can inflict disabling damage in a collision.

This isn't a good scenario for the US military, perhaps the organisation most heavily dependent on space. Hence DARPA would like to hear from anyone with "possible technical approaches for cost effective and innovative system concepts for the removal of orbital debris".

It seems that the Pentagon brainiacs particularly want to tackle drifting space rubbish from 1mm up to "derelict spacecraft" size in low orbit, and larger stuff up in geosynchronous orbit where the communications satellites are found.

DARPA is looking for information on the full spectrum of potential solutions, from quickly clearing a congested region in space of all types of debris to strategically removing large objects across a range of altitudes to manage the overall growth rate of debris.

It's noticeable that US aerospace and weaponry behemoth Boeing have already listed themselves as an "interested vendor" on the possible Orbital Debris Removal (ODR) project. Boeing is big in the military space industry. The firm is working on the so-called Space Based Surveillance System, a group of satellites intended to spy on enemy spy satellites. According to Boeing, the SBSS could also be used "to calculate orbital debris collision-avoidance measures for the International Space Station and Space Shuttle missions".

That said, however, the ODR effort is only a request for information for now. No funds have been set aside, and DARPA says it "does not intend to award a contract on the basis of this... or to otherwise pay for the information solicited".

Plus there's the fact that DARPA is institutionally a bit, you know... special. So there's every chance that orbital-debris sweepup is actually impossible or that they'll give up on it in the near future. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
BAT-GOBBLING urban SPIDER QUEENS swell to ENORMOUS SIZE
But they'd lose a deathmatch against the coming Humvee-sized, armoured Arctic ones
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
TRANSMUTATION claims US LENR company
Ten points of stuff out of a five pound bag
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?