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Video: Robots to Recycle Space Junk
8/16/2012

In the proposed Phoenix program, robotic arms and end effectors can decouple an antenna from its retired military communication satellite and reuse it in a new satellite, saving money, maintaining global coverage, and cleaning up space junk.   (Source: DARPA)
In the proposed Phoenix program, robotic arms and end effectors can decouple an antenna from its retired military communication satellite and reuse it in a new satellite, saving money, maintaining global coverage, and cleaning up space junk.
(Source: DARPA)

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cleaning up space
Ann R. Thryft   8/22/2012 12:42:02 PM
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There are a few polymer-eating bacteria, although so far I don't believe any have been corralled to harvest plastic from the oceans. I'd love to find out differently. Anyone know?

Dave Palmer
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Re: Cleaning up space
Dave Palmer   8/21/2012 10:33:35 AM
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@sbkenn: On the subject of plastic contamination in the oceans, Donovan Hohn's book Moby Duck is a fascinating read.  He tried to track the journey of 28,800 bath toys that fell off a container ship.  I highly recommend it.

sbkenn
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Re: Cleaning up space
sbkenn   8/21/2012 6:26:48 AM
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@Beth, it is said that a teaspoonfull of sediment, from any bit of sea floor on the planet, will contain visible pieces of plastic.  A shocking reflection of our habits IMO.

I know that there are bacteria that consume iron(very slowly), and oil, but not sure about polymers.

Charles Murray
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Re: SPACE JUNK
Charles Murray   8/20/2012 8:47:31 PM
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Great stats, bobjengr. I had no idea there were so many little pieces of debris. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Cleaning up space
Rob Spiegel   8/20/2012 5:43:05 PM
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I like your plug and play idea, Ralphy Boy. And if that fails, I'd opt for the duct tape. There are very few things duct tape won't fix -- except a leak in a swamp cooler hose, as I found out recently.

Ralphy Boy
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Re: Cleaning up space
Ralphy Boy   8/20/2012 5:20:50 PM
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I didn't get to see the video yet (at work), but I am wondering how easy or hard it is for parts to be scavenged from one sat and then applied to another.

Even on sats of the same type there could be hardware and alignment issues. We make small changes to print packs all the time. I'd hate to see a bot going from one out of service sat to another searching for a hole/pin alignment match. Or filing out a hole to get a fit... ; )

Also, a lot of things might be potted in place, or otherwise hard to remove. Perhaps a tile knife, some outer space approved duct-tape, and a spool of bailing wire would be a handy addition to the tool box.

On the other hand, if it hasn't already happened... a plug and play, snap in place assembly line-one size fits all design regimen in the future could insure a high rate of retro-booting.

We made 100+ battery packs for a sat network some years back. They were all identical. If some of those are bricks, and other sats have been shut down for other reasons but the batteries might still be good... that might be a worthwhile swap depending on how the 2kg packs were installed.

 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: SPACE JUNK
Ann R. Thryft   8/20/2012 11:38:48 AM
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bob, thanks for quoting that info from NASA's site on space junk. It's amazing how many small particles there are, but scary how many large ones weighing more than 200 lbs are flying around.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cleaning up space
Ann R. Thryft   8/20/2012 11:32:41 AM
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I agree, that sounds like a great idea. I wonder if DARPA is working on that?

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Cleaning up space
Beth Stackpole   8/20/2012 9:48:34 AM
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@Shane: Love to hear more about robots cleaning up the junk on the ocean floor as well. My guess is there's probably more stuff to clean up in the deep waters than out in space.

j-allen
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Re: Space Junk- The final frontier?
j-allen   8/19/2012 6:02:21 PM
Cute exercise in Gallilean relativity, but why did you add all those velocities as scalar quantities?  Unless thye are all in the same direction, you need to add them vectorially.   Still, what's the point?  For the space junk problem what counts is the velocity of a piece ralative to a satellite with which it might collide. 

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