Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Starlink Satellites Leading Edge On-Orbit Debris Mitigation

The Starlink satellite broadband internet service from SpaceX is going to retire some of its early prototype satellites, but not in the usual way, which is to just leave them to form constellations of space junk.

SpaceX will perform propulsion-assisted orbital decay to bring them down into the Earth's atmosphere in a semi-controlled way.

To date, SpaceX has launched a total of 775 Starlink satellites, including early prototypes. According to astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who has been following the constellation's location closely, 47 Starlink satellites have been deorbited and reentered Earth's atmosphere. McDowell published a document on his website that states --"SpaceX is retiring the V0.9 constellation of 60 prototype satellites launched in May 2019. As of October 7, 39 of the 60 satellites have reentered," he wrote, "This is a new kind of reentry: it's not a normal impulsive deorbit and not a normal orbital decay, but something in-between. The Starlink satellites are, apparently, retired by continuously lowering their orbit with electric propulsion. Reentry occurs in a way similar to uncontrolled reentry - eventually the satellite is low enough and the ambient density is high enough that the vehicle heats, breaks up and is destroyed."

"The crucial point here is that the location of the breakup on the Earth is unpredictable and uncontrolled, in contrast to an impulsive deorbit where the rapid elliptical-orbit descent from a relatively high apogee means that reentry location is determined relatively precisely by the orbital parameters," McDowell explains. "These Starlink retirements should perhaps be termed `propulsion-assisted orbital decay'- they are more like normal uncontrolled orbital decay but speeded up by the thrusters," he wrote in his Space Report No.784 that he shared via Twitter.

SpaceX designed Starlink satellites to have a shorter duration life-span to ensure they do not cause space junk around Earth. "Starlink is on the leading edge of on-orbit debris mitigation, meeting or exceeding all regulatory and industry standards," the company states, "At end of life, the satellites will utilize their on-board propulsion system to deorbit over the course of a few months. In the unlikely event the propulsion system becomes inoperable, the satellites will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere within 1-5 years, significantly less than the hundreds or thousands of years required at higher altitudes." By intentionally deorbiting Starlink satellites, each burn up in Earth's harsh atmosphere which helps keep space clean of objects that will not be utilized.

In his 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke uses a somewhat more emphatic method - called Operation Cleanup to make sure that low earth orbit is clear of debris for the newly constructed space elevator which is the main subject of the novel:

Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task. Their radars - designed to locate oncoming missles at extreme ranges with no advance warning - could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age. Then their lasers vaporized the smaller satellites, while the larger ones were nudged into higher and harmless orbits.

There have been a lot of suggestions about how to deal with the problem of space debris - take your pick!

  - Terminator Tether - EDT Solution To Space Debris Update
  - NanoTerminator Prevents Annoying Space Debris Build-Up
  - Debris Cloud From Chinese ASAT A Menace To Space Lanes
  - Space Debris Cleanup Suggestions Ignored
  - Laser Thruster 'Tractor Beams' For Space Junk
  - Space Junk-Eating Pod-Craft
  - CleanSpace One Goal: De-Orbit Space Debris
  - Space Debris Cleanup - Use Harpoons Or Gas Clouds?
  - Could Ground-Based Lasers De-Orbit Space Junk?
  - Australians To Zap Space Junk Ala Arthur C. Clarke
  - Tracking Spinning Space Junk
  - Zap Space Debris With Telescope Laser On ISS
  - New Laser Space Debris Clearing More Subtle Than Clarke's
  - Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS
  - Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup

Via Tesmanian.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/7/2020)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.' - EE 'Doc' Smith, 1928.

Can A Human Land A SpaceX Rocket On Its Tail?
'If she starts to roll sideways — blooey! The underjets only hold you up when they’re pointing down, you know.' - Stanley G. Weinbaum, 1936.

First Ever Proof Of Water On Asteroids
'Yes, strangely enough there was still sufficient water beneath the surface of Vesta.' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Vast Apartment Living Will Get Even More Vast
'What is your population', I asked. 'About eighty millions.'

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Elon Musk Says Robotaxis Will Be Ready This August, 2024
'The car had no steering wheel, and no one drove!'

Moonwalkers AI-Controlled Electric Shoes
Now that's power walking that Hugo Gernsback would have approved.

Steve Jobs: 'Capture The Next Aristotle - With AI'
'It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct...'

No Tips! Robotic Food Delivery In Phoenix
'...he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'

Electric Catamaran 'Explorer Eco 40m' Has 'Solar Skin'
'On went the electric-yacht faster and still faster.'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.'

Harvest Power From Tears And Blinking With Smart Contact Lens
'...he realized that it was not quite a clear lens. Speckles of colored brightness swirled and gathered in it.'

Europa Clipper Plate Carries A Special Message
'...a universal cryptogram — yet it is one which can be interpreted by any intelligent creature on any planet in the Solar System!'

Micro-Robots Are Smallest, Fully Functional
'With a whir, the Scarab shot from the concealing shadows of the corner where it had hidden itself.'

AI Enhances Images Your Brain Sees
'I could have sworn the psychomat showed pictures almost as sharp and detailed as reality itself'

Illustrating Classic Heinlein With AI
'Stasis, cold sleep, hibernation, hypothermia, reduced metabolism, call it what you will - the logistics-medicine research teams had found a way to stack people like cordwood and use them when needed.'

Deflector Plasma Screen For Drones ala Star Wars
'If the enemy persists in attacking or even intensifies their power, the density of the plasma in space will suddenly increase, causing it to reflect most of the incoming energy like a mirror.'

DIY Robotic Hand Made After Loss Of Fingers
'I made them... with the fine work of the watchmaker...'

Cheap Drunk Driver Detection From UofM
"Look, I can drive... Start, darn it!"

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.