Saturday, December 28, 2013

Treating the Kessler Syndrome

The Kessler Syndrome is a real problem. There's a lot of hardware in orbit, most of it derelict spacecraft and rocket stages. If nothing is done hardware will eventually collide with other hardware, creating shrapnel that threatens more hardware in a growing cascade.

Fortunately, this will happen slowly over the course of decades. There's time to fix the problem.

Unfortunately, we're not fixing it at this time.

Fortunately, we can start now, and the earlier we start the better.

Every piece of space junk we deorbit will reduce the problem, forever.

So. Let us agree that if uncatalogued space junk wipes out a functioning satellite, there is a fund to pay for damages,with funding proportional to the mass of derelict spacecraft and rocket stages in orbit that can be traced to specific states.

If it's an identified derelict, the launcher or last owner pays. This would typically be the launcher for rocket stages and the last owner for spacecraft.

Now everybody has an incentive to reduce the problem.

The United States can begin to calculate the benefit of deorbiting their derelicts.  And offer bounties for specific performance.

Fortunately, the deorbit bounty can be given for specific performance. If you deorbit, say, 5 tons of spacecraft, how you do it doesn't matter. As long as you don't make matters worse by breaking up the target in a failed deorbit attempt, and the bounty agreement can include penalties for this sort of failure.

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