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Old 31 March 2017, 11:51 PM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
Join Date: 05 September 2005
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Posts: 23,789

Satellites are not a huge problem. Space junk really is. Using NASA's own space junk statistics software, we once worked out the odds for even a very slim space elevator tether, which turns out to have a huge area and therefore gets hit all the time. There are hundreds of thousands of tiny bullets in orbit around the Earth. Even a small nut or washer travelling at 10 thousand kilometres per hour is actually worse than a bullet. The tether would be shredded many times a year. Satellites avoid these small pieces because their area - even for the ISS - are relatively small compared to a line that stretches from the atmosphere directly through all low Earth orbits. (Actually, they do get hit and the ISS is expected to get hit every decade or so on average. Unlike a tether, they aren't all structure so structural damage is expected to be limited.) For larger pieces, they adjust their orbits and that is a very very limited option for geosynchronous space elevators. I consider this to be the largest challenge, even greater than the rather next to impossible feat of making such a tether. Futurists call such things "merely engineering problems". I've decided that usually means "probably not possible for at least a century".
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