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Don Kessler, Dr. Darren McKnight, Tuesday, 2-7-12 February 8, 2012

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Don Kessler, Dr. Darren McKnight, Tuesday, 2-7-12

http://archived.thespaceshow.com/shows/1707-BWB-2012-02-07.mp3

Guests:  Donald J. Kessler, Dr. Darren McKnight.  Topics:  The National Research Council  report: Limiting Future Collision Risk to Spacecraft: An Assessment of NASA’s Meteoroid and Orbital Debris Programs (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13244). You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright.  We welcomed Donald (Don) Kessler and Dr. Darren McKnight to the program to discuss the above mentioned NRC orbital debris report.  Mr. Kessler started us out with the background and reasons for the current NRC study.  He directed us to the list of goals on P. 3 of the report, a list that we talked about during the entire program.  In this introductory discussion, he talked about space policy and the need to clean the space environment, saying mitigation was insufficient on its own.  In talking about the structure, organization and work of the committee doing the study, our guests provided us with a comprehensive description of the space debris problem, the types of technologies being considered for use in addressing the problem, and time lines for LEO, MEO, & GEO intervention.  Listeners asked about behavior in response to comments made by our guests for rules of the road and we took a hard look at intentional acts as compared to behavior out of ignorance or not understanding the problem.  Insurance rates and our decades long history of space activity was made part of the analysis  Some debris technologies and counter measures were talked about such as tethers, satellite drag devices, radar and its issues, and more. I asked both our guests if we were at a point where commercial/entrepreneurial businesses could take hold regarding debris cleanups.  As you will hear, we are getting close but not quite there yet.  Our guests gave us many examples to illustrate the points they were making in this discussion.  As related to the comments on behavior, caller Jon brought up Game Theory along with the Tragedy of the Commons.  One of the main points made throughout the program was that there were lots of variables and uncertainties in how best to deal with debris issues.  The uncertainties make it far more difficult for companies to take action and for policy to be made.  This is a discussion you do not want to miss.  Later, Alistair called in with concern for MEO debris and collisions.  One of his questions concerned potential damage to SSP materials from debris impact.  Our guests had much to say about this issue which might just be an SSP show stopper!  Throughout the first segment, we talked about the need for a NASA & other agency budget increase for cleaning up the space environment, space cleanup expenses, who might pay for them and also the Kessler Syndrome and that even if there were no new launches, the debris issue would continue escalating. 

In our second segment, John called in wondering if down the road using RLVs would help the problem given there would be less space junk hardware left in obit.  As you will hear, it helps but it is not a solution to the debris problem.  During this shorter segment, other ideas were mentioned in the context of their applicability to LEO or another location.  Near the end of the program, Darren said it comes down to paying now or paying much more later. 

Please post your comments/questions for our guests on The Space Show blog.

Comments»

1. Alistair - February 16, 2012

Apparently the Swiss are planning on a ‘janitor satellite’ to retrieve two of their own satellites.

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/story/2012-02-15/swiss-janitor-satellite/53103008/1

Two takeaways:
“The $11-million satellite called CleanSpace One — the prototype for a family of such satellites…”

and

“…hopes to someday ‘offer and sell a whole family of ready-made systems, designed as sustainably as possible, that are able to de-orbit several different kinds of satellites.’ ”

Potentially a good marketing idea to build and sell these to other countries since international law and most nations frown upon other countries salvaging their own defunct satellites.


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