Clearing Space Debris Using Energetic Materials

by Laddie Marin, Jr., AFSC, United States,
Charles A. Mulligan, AFSC, United States,
Joseph J. Secary, AFSC, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space II


Space debris is growing at an alarming rate. It consists not only of old, unusable payloads but also aluminum oxide combustion products of various space delivery systems and small fragments from payload breakup. Although the thousands of large, trackable objects pose a collision hazard for future US space vehicles, the smaller, untrackable particles are an even larger threat due to their high velocities and nondetectability prior to impact. Even though efforts are under way to reduce the growth of this pollution problem, an effective debris clearing method is needed to ensure safe launch and deployment of expensive national space assets. This paper discusses the space debris problem, reviews some previously proposed solutions, and presents a new possible solution involving use of energetic material charges to cause reentry or escape of debris objects.

Subject Headings: Debris | Space stations | Aircraft and spacecraft | Payloads | Particle velocity | Explosions | Space exploration | Aluminum (chemical) | United States

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