DARPA Wants Ideas For Cleaning Up Outer Space

Irene Klotz reports on Discovery News:

James Hollopeter of GIT Satellite has a plan for getting rid of orbiting junk. He wants to launch rocket-loads of water into space to create a liquid wall for debris to slam into, so the pieces can slow down and eventually drop out of orbit.

Launched on ballistic flight paths that quickly re-enter the atmosphere, the water wouldn’t add to the debris problem, unlike some other proposals to clean up space. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency known as DARPA wants to hear about them all.

The agency last week issued a request for ideas to clean up orbital debris, a problem that has skyrocketed since China intentionally blew up a defunct satellite as part of a weapons test in 2007 and the orbital collision of two communications spacecraft earlier this year.

“Since January 2007 we have experienced a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of cataloged debris objects,” DARPA wrote in its solicitation.

The government’s Space Surveillance Network currently tracks more than 20,000 objects in orbit around Earth, 94 percent of which are classified as debris. And those are just the pieces big enough to track. There are estimated to be hundreds of thousands of objects smaller than about 10 centimeters across that literally slip beneath the radar.

While hurling water into space is a decidedly low-tech affair, Hollopeter says that is one of its advantages.

  • Anonymous

    Well, so much for the US dominance of space. The first orbital battle will also be the last.

  • ioksototeaterofsouls

    Well, so much for the US dominance of space. The first orbital battle will also be the last.