Re: GEO debris (was: Re: Useless hypotheses)

From: Spike Jones (
Date: Sat Dec 22 2001 - 15:28:19 MST

> >> Spike Jones wrote: ...if a solid motor is firing and something
> >> goes wrong with the guidance system causing the back end to
> >> flip around forward, a bunch of phlogiston and junk is sprayed
> >> into orbit that could damage other satellites.
> Amara Graps wrote: That stuff can remain in orbit for a long time too.
> (years and decades)

Speaking of which, I thought of a mechanism whereby space debris
could get into earth orbit from a sub-orbital solid motor burn. I got the
idea from reading Amara's excellent PhD thesis.

Suppose a solid motor exhaust plume does scatter some slag
in a poorly-understood (by me anyway) von Karman vortex
effect at the nozzle edge. The velocity of the particle could
still be significantly sub-orbital, but suppose the particle carries
a net charge, which would be no surprise at all considering its
temperature and the violent exothermic reaction that it just
went thru. Then the charged particle would interact with the solar
wind, perhaps getting accelerated to orbital speed. Then the
particle could go neutral, as a direct result of interaction
with charged particles in the Van Allen belts, trapping a bunch
of stuff in orbit, since the neutral junk would not then be carried
away by the solar wind. All this from a *suborbital shot*.

Wow thats kinda scary. Amara, could this happen?

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