Miniature space janitors to sweep up orbiting debris

I think the big thing is to come up with a solution. Any rocket we put up into space today probably sheds bits. Whatever puts Space janitors into space risks adding as much bits as these things take out. But, once you have a solution, space-ready nations could it insist that anyone sending something into space offsets their potential damage by contributing to the cleanup process. Yep, there will be rogues, such as India and their recent satellite attack demonstration. But once we put a cost on the clean-up, they will look bad in Real Money, and that matters to some people more than saving the planet.

1 Like

Ok, the US spewed millions of copper needles into space, I guess to create an artificial ionosphere, called Project West Ford. Now that alone is going to be hard to clean up assuming they are still up there (and why wouldn’t they be?) This was 1961-1963.


Project West Ford (also known as Westford Needles and Project Needles) was a test carried out by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory on behalf of the United States Military in 1961 and 1963 to create an artificial ionosphere above the Earth.

A ring of 480,000,000 copper dipole antennas (1.78 cm long needles, 25.4μm [1961] / 17.8μm [1963] in diameter) was placed in orbit to facilitate global radio communication. The length was chosen because it was half the wavelength of the 8 GHz signal used in the study. The dipoles collectively provided passive support to Project Westford’s parabolic dish (located in the town of Westford) to communicate with distant sites.

The project was artfully referenced by John Brunner in his dystopian novel The Sheep Look Up (1972):

"Reading, as you might say, from the top down:

Dead satellites.
Discarded first and second stages of rockets, mainly second.
Fragments of vehicles which exploded in orbit.
Experimental material, e.g. reflective copper needles …"


Lol… half my brain thinks “but what about the love, drama, and opportunity for personal growth we were promised in that anime”.

The other half replies with a snide remark how the best time to eliminate an occupational profile is before it even exists.

1 Like

OSCaR (Obsolete Spacecraft Capture and Removal), will collect the tiny pieces of junk

If it’s going to be cleaning up the garbage, maybe it should be called FELiX (Fetching Extra-Terrestrial LItter eXpensively) instead?


They’re self-vacuuming. :grinning:

Little cubes that collect things?

Do you want Borg? Because that’s how you get Borg.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.