Boeing wants to take down space junk with clouds of gas

Orbital debris, also known as space junk, is a problem that many people in government and the commercial space industry are hoping to solve — clearing the Earth’s orbit of old satellites and other equipment.

So here is Boeing’s idea: Get rid of the rubble with clouds of gas.

In a patent application recently made public, Seattle-area engineer Michael Dunn, who works for Boeing, proposes to target space junk with “transient gaseous clouds” dense enough to drag the orbital debris back into Earth’s atmosphere, allowing it to burn up.

The clouds would be created by a rocket at an altitude of at least 100 kilometers. The gas would quickly dissipate, but would create enough drag on the space junk to pull it into the atmosphere.

While still just a concept, the proposal could be more efficient than other ideas for bringing down space junk, according to New Scientist. Alternative proposals include attaching sails to defunct satellites or deploying robots into space to trawl for junk with nets.

Original Source: GizMag. Image via NASA.

  • Commenter77

    How does Boeing plan to control where space junk lands? It would be unfortunate if someone was killed by something they decelerated..

    • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.goolsbee Chuck Goolsbee

      Reentry should burn the junk completely. The atmosphere provides tremendous amounts of friction – otherwise you would have been pummeled to death by asteroids by now.

  • http://twitter.com/LeePridemore Lee Pridemore

    HyperGeeks from Boeing and UberGeeks at the UW will freeze climate change through a similar concept. Enviromental Modification. I hope they get some sleep the night before they light that firecracker.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vivek.joshi.982292 Vivek Joshi

    This sounds just “too easy to be true”. I guess the truth is in the math of how this works. I wish them luck as this is a serious problem. All the European solutions I heard seem just too expensive for anyone to implement.