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Are solar power satellites sitting ducks for orbital debris?

Are solar power satellites sitting ducks for orbital debris?

Orbital debris could pose a major risk to giant space-based solar power structures unless society undertakes efforts to clean up debris. (credit: Artemis Innovation Management Solutions)
Orbital debris could pose a major risk to giant space-based solar power structures unless society undertakes efforts to clean up debris. (credit: Artemis Innovation Management Solutions)

Even conservative estimates of the energy needed in coming years to meet surging world demand are staggering. Energy use, currently over 120,000 billion kilowatt-hours annually, is forecast to double by 2030 or 2040 and to quadruple by 2090 or 2100.1 To meet this growing demand, many space enthusiasts are promoting the idea of space solar power for terrestrial use. Unfortunately, a fierce and growing spoiler lies in wait: orbital debris.

Individuals and governments around the globe are becoming aware of the danger that orbital debris presents both to our modern life and to future plans for the utilization of space. According to NASA, there are over 21,000 Earth-orbiting objects larger than a softball (10 centimeters) and 500,000 shrapnel fragments between 1 and 10 centimeters. The number of shrapnel smaller than 1 centimeters exceeds 100 million.

 

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September 22, 2014


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