Author Topic: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!  (Read 1278 times)

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Offline DanDanDan

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Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« on: April 08, 2019, 10:23:01 PM »
In a sense, each piece of garbage in orbit can be thought of as a kinetic battery. So what am I missing here? Why not think of that energy as an asset instead of purely as a liability? Mine it, so to speak.

Is it just not feasible to take the momentum of a piece of space junk and transfer to a satellite? Or use the energy for any of the other million purposes that I'm not imaginative enough to dream up.

No way am I the first to have considered this, because I ain't no rocket scientician. File drawer effect, maybe?

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Offline CarbShark

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2019, 11:27:13 PM »
The fact that you can think of them that way doesn’t mean it’s going to
be practical to use their kinetic energy.

They are in orbit and that’s not a convenient place to store energy. To retrieve all those bits of pieces would take a lot of energy to match orbits and speeds, and then there would be the energy required to get that fuel into orbit.

All of the ideas for getting rid of space junk I’ve seen have involved a way to send it down into the atmosphere. Not retrieving it. Even the pieces that may have some use.


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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2019, 11:55:18 PM »
If we could set up a satellite with some sort of electromagnetic braking system that worked at those speeds, maybe you could set up something that could do regenerative-braking style power generation by catching scrap?

Seems like a really difficult and inefficient approach compared to zapping crap with lasers from a higher orbit, sending it down the gravity well.
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Offline DanDanDan

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2019, 03:24:40 AM »
This is why I'm thinking of the situation as a sort of mining problem. It's a resource that hard to get at, but a resource none the less.

Online 2397

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2019, 04:33:56 AM »
With orbiting garbage, we have to either accelerate or decelerate it to move it away from or down to Earth. Both require an input of energy.

I don't know what the composition of it all is, but it's probably far too fragmented to be worth gathering it up vs. mining an asteroid.

Online daniel1948

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2019, 09:58:03 AM »
With orbiting garbage, we have to either accelerate or decelerate it to move it away from or down to Earth. Both require an input of energy.

I don't know what the composition of it all is, but it's probably far too fragmented to be worth gathering it up vs. mining an asteroid.

I think this is the crux: It's too far away and too fragmented.

There are energy sources that are just too intense to capture because we cannot build anything that can withstand it. Thermonuclear energy is one example: Up to now we have been unable to build a vessel that can contain it because it's too hot for our materials. Each bit of orbiting debris has such high energy that anything it strikes will be seriously damaged. Add to that the fact that it is so spread out that it would require a huge collector. Then there's the problem of getting that energy somewhere it can be used. A collector would have to be in orbit, so how do you get the energy anywhere useful? Note that this stuff is so diffuse that existing satellites are rarely struck by it.

And finally, with solar coming down in price, retrieving energy from orbiting debris will never compete in cost effectiveness. The cost of building a space debris energy collector would be vastly more than building a solar collector farm or a wind farm.

Here's a thought experiment: Imagine there actually were a perpetual-motion machine that produced energy absolutely free, but it cost a million dollars to build a machine with a constant output of one watt. Would you buy one? Residential solar seems to range from about three to four dollars per watt, depending on your location, and industrial-scale solar is even cheaper. Your orbiting-debris energy collector, like this imaginary perpetual motion machine, is just not cost effective.
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Offline DanDanDan

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2019, 01:02:01 PM »
Add ultralight ferromagnetic foam. Maybe.

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Online gmalivuk

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2019, 01:40:17 PM »
This is why I'm thinking of the situation as a sort of mining problem. It's a resource that hard to get at, but a resource none the less.
If it uses more energy than you can get, then it's not really a resource.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2019, 01:43:34 PM by gmalivuk »
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Offline DanDanDan

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2019, 02:15:04 PM »
This is why I'm thinking of the situation as a sort of mining problem. It's a resource that hard to get at, but a resource none the less.
If it uses more energy than you can get, then it's not really a resource.
Good point. Still have to do something with it tho.

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Offline DanDanDan

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2019, 02:16:26 PM »
No doubt that these sort of plans are out there, I'm just wondering if they've been made public.

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Offline CarbShark

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2019, 02:43:08 PM »
No doubt that these sort of plans are out there, I'm just wondering if they've been made public.

I seriously doubt it. There are plans, however, to send dangerous space junk into the atmosphere. (When I say "plans" that doesn't mean they are intending to do it, but if the they decide to do it, they at least have a plan.)

There's also the issue of ownership.  Space junk is actually owned by whomever put it into orbit. It would literally be illegal (in violation of treaties) to collect space junk.

Nudging it into the atmosphere is ok, though.
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Offline DanDanDan

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2019, 03:06:20 PM »
BTW, all of this dovetails with the discussion on the pod about firing lasers or particle beams around black holes.

IMO, it would be a massive waste to not recycle that energy by turning it into a sort of conveyor belt.

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Offline DanDanDan

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2019, 03:06:54 PM »
Patent dibs!

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Online gmalivuk

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2019, 04:25:26 PM »
This is why I'm thinking of the situation as a sort of mining problem. It's a resource that hard to get at, but a resource none the less.
If it uses more energy than you can get, then it's not really a resource.
Good point. Still have to do something with it tho.
Yeah, the best option would be to bleed that energy into the atmosphere by deorbiting all the junk so it doesn't hit actually important things.
The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better...is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

Online gmalivuk

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Re: Kinetic Batteries... In Space!
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2019, 04:33:54 PM »
This site has an estimate of about 13,000 tonnes launched into space as of the end of 2017. Let's grossly overestimate the amount of secret military launches or whatever and round it up to 100 million kg. Let's further imagine that it's all traveling at escape velocity instead of slow enough to orbit in approximately a circle.

This gross overestimate of the total kinetic energy ever sent into orbit comes out to 1.7 TWh.

That may seem like a lot, but it's less than 0.1% of the electrical energy the US uses each year.
The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better...is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

 

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