Dr. Kristen Gates has devised a beautiful simple tool that can help cut down the trash from dead satellites that dangerously swirl in the space beyond. Dubbed as GOLD–the Gossamer Orbit Lowering Device—this football sized balloon is carried into the orbit deflated in a suitcase sized box and fastened to a dead satellite. Once inflated to maximum size the huge balloon increases the atmospheric drag on the satellite thereby reducing its speed in the orbital path. This causes the satellite to descend into the atmosphere where the denser air heats it to the point that it burns up.
GOLD can be cheaply built into the upper stages of new rockets so that they never pose a space junk threat. Besides the GOLD material may burn but it will never add or generate more junk. The GOLD was recently revealed at the “Artificial and Natural Space Debris” session of the AIAA Astrodynamics Specialists Conference.
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