Earth’s Artificial Ring: Project West Ford

One of the known problems which will have to be solved before a Space Elevator can become a reality is space debris.  I ran across this article, detailing one of the sources of debris.  In 1963, the Air Force launched a rocket that put 480 million tiny copper needles into space, and, according to the same article, some of them are still there.  Interesting reading.

3 thoughts on “Earth’s Artificial Ring: Project West Ford

  1. michael laine

    does anyone know anything more about this thing? by its picture, the ring lines right along the path of where we plan to put the SE… that could be very bad, because these needles are so small, they would be impossible to detect, and so many that it would be pointless to move the ribbon… so if anyone can track down how many of these needle that are still out there, that would be helpful. thanks.


  2. ArmchairAnarchist

    Good find!

    mjl: Given that the wavelength for them is supplied, scanning for where these things are would be relatively simple given access to the right hardware, surely? Even if not, some sort of ‘sweeper’ satellite(s) placed ‘in front’ of the SE’s path, held in relative position by remote control from the SE itself, would present less (certainly no more) engineering problems than the SE itself? It could be used to detect larger debris that would require the SE to be moved, also.

    (OK; I’m no space scientist, so I may be being very naive here, but I thought I’d put my 10 pence in anyhow!)

  3. Ted Semon Post author

    Gee, Michael. I’m just supposed to report on the problems, not solve them 🙂

    Seriously, I’ve always wondered if the idea of moving the elevator to avoid debris was the right way to solve that problem. I like Clarke’s “Spaceguard” idea; put some lasers up there and zap anything headed our way. The cost of compensating someone for losing their satellite would be just part of the cost of doing business.

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