Helium balloons could bring defunct satellites back to Earth

August 5th, 2010 - 5:47 pm ICT by ANI  

London, August 5 (ANI): Instead of sending things up into the air, helium balloons may be used to clear out the junk in space, such as defunct satellites, and bring them back to Earth.

According to New Scientist, this could be important since dead satellites pose a hazard to other orbiting spacecraft.

Although there are technical ways of avoiding collisions, they are expensive too.

Kristin Gates of the Global Aerospace Corporation in Altadena, California, presented the idea.

Any new satellite could be launched with a folded-up balloon stowed on board. Once the satellite reached the end of its useful life, the balloon would fill with helium or another gas, creating extra drag as the balloon collided with Earth’s tenuous outer atmosphere.

The balloon and the equipment needed to inflate it would add just 36 kilograms of mass to the satellite, less than the amount of fuel that would be needed to de-orbit it without the balloon, the team says.

But Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation in Washington DC said that the concept would fail for geostationary satellites that orbit 36,000 km above Earth, where there is too little gas to provide the necessary drag.

A downside could be the risk of collision with another satellite, but that would be minimal, as per the experts. (ANI)

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