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Re^7: "Practices and Principles" to death

by dragonchild (Archbishop)
on Mar 04, 2008 at 01:10 UTC ( #671749=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Re^6: "Practices and Principles" to death
in thread "Practices and Principles" to death

My example may have been misleading. I don't say that a company should clean all of the space in LEO or any EO, for that matter. If a company is planning on putting up satellites in a given area, I suspect they would be willing to pay some other company to clean it first. This is no different (in theory) than getting a cleaning company to come shampoo the rugs before you move into an apartment.

This, of course, assumes that someone can go ahead and purchase an orbit and location on said orbit. I think that would make a lot of sense. Maybe a Verisign-like entity would take registration of expected orbits. You would be paying for the listing that you have claimed that orbit+location. If you deviate, you could be sued by the people whose orbit+location you violated. This entity would take an application and say "You can(not) have it." Nothing needs said about why or who else is there, thus preserving privacy.

If you wanted to wildcat, you'd be welcome to do so. But, if enough "legitimate" players used this registration system, then the courts would serve as a sufficient deterrent through civil suits. Particularly if the precedent was set that you could destroy anything that got into your orbit+location (so long as you cleaned up after yourself, of course, with precedent set for that, too).

I believe this avoids the tragedy of the commons. Comments?


My criteria for good software:
  1. Does it work?
  2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?


Comment on Re^7: "Practices and Principles" to death
Re^8: "Practices and Principles" to death
by tilly (Archbishop) on Mar 04, 2008 at 02:49 UTC
    How do you define an orbit for property purposes? Please keep in mind that there are many, many orbits that intersect. That there are important orbits that may have many things in them. (Geostationary orbit is the most notable example.) That orbital mechanics are chaotic, so any object placed in orbit will eventually wind up in a different orbit. (One can, if you time it right, get from near Earth orbit to the Moon with almost no usage of power. IIRC this trip takes about 2 years.)

    Next, once you've defined orbits in a reasonable way, you have the problem that most of the space junk out there will cross many orbits. For each owner of an orbit, it is easier to just avoid stuff crossing your orbit than it is to clean that stuff up. (Don't forget, we still have no way to clean things up.) Also any attempt to clean up junk that is crossing one orbit is fairly likely to move it into someone else's orbit. What are the lawsuit opportunities there?

    Even if you propose a solution to these problems, you have the bigger problem of how to agree on regulations that have to cover multiple countries. Do you really think that China or India is in any mood to accept a division imposed by the USA, Europe and Russia about who may use what parts of space? And what about the smaller powers? According to Wikipedia there are 45 countries with space agencies. Many, admittedly, do not launch their own satellites. But getting that many countries to agree on a complex legal system involving space is going to be very, very tricky.

    I agree that these are problems that need to be addressed at some point if we're going to continue our exploration of space. However I submit that there are a lot of issues to be resolved that free markets are poorly equipped to address. And even if you come up with a solution where free market forces have a role, you first need to create the framework that free market can exist in. And that process itself can't be solved by waving the magic free market wand.

      Here's an idea that popped into my head a few years ago whilst having an on-line discussion with someone who worked for an agency involved tracking space debris by radar. And it won't go away. I don't know enough about orbital mechanics, nor have a sufficient appreciation of the forces and velocities involved, to dimiss it. So, if anyone can shoot it down, please do and I can give my brain a rest.

      My assumption is that for any given piece of debris currently in a long term orbit, it would only take a small (earthwards) delta change in its instantaneous trajectory to cause it to fall back to earth of its own accord. And, for the vast majority of those small objects, that would be a safe method of displosal. Also, that a near-but-not-quite parallel collision between a piece of debris and a solid flat surface, is likely to redirect the debris, rather than for it to penetrate. Like a bulllet ricocheting off a wall.

      In the next couple of years the shuttles are due to be stood down on safety grounds. It long struck me that the biggest risks are associate with launch and return with people on board. And the biggest limitations on individual missions is the support needs for that wet ware. As a final act, one or more of the shuttles could be sent into orbit, perhaps to dock with the space station unmanned, or with a skeleton crew to be returned by other means.

      If it took up extra fuel (in the bay) for manovering; the robot arm; and a large solid deflector. It could use that deflector, extended below the shuttles orbit to change the orbits of small pieces of debris (the vast majority of the 9000 or so they track), just enough to cause them to re-enter and burn up.

      'scuse the crudity of the ascii art (its obviously not to scale :):

      ____ >[____]> / / / \ \ \ ____---- \ ____---- ____---- . . . . . . . ____---- . . . . Earth V this way . V . V

      So, shoot it down--but no missiles please :)


      Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
      "Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
      In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.
        Do you think the arm or deflector could be manoeuvred with sufficient accuracy by remote from earth to obtain the desired effect?

        I think you are seriously underestimating the complexity of this endeavour. I suspect it would be easier to clean the North Pacific Gyre with a tea strainer.

        Try catching a leaf falling of a tree in autumn some time. Thousands of leaves falling, everywhere, all the time. And yet, you are never in the right place at the right time.

        One could probably sail to the middle of the Gyre, toss a bucket over the side and haul it back up, and find nothing but... water. You might see lots of trash float by, lots and lots and lots, but never grab a single piece.

        And it is the same with space. Sure, we are led to believe that near space is full of all sorts of shrapnel ready to drill holes through delicate equipment like space shuttles or, heaven forfend, people. Go up there for a week, and you'll wind up shredded like character in a Tex Avery cartoon.

        I think people forget how utterly vast space is, even low earth orbit. You are simply not going to rendez-vous with so much as a 2 inch bolt.

        I also think you underestimate the mass the reflector would need to be of any use. Unless it was solid metal several centimetres thick, anything colliding with it would just drill right through. If you have sufficient mass to make it useful, you won't have the energy available to move it around. Make it light enough to move around, and you won't be able to do anything, it will just be shredded like a hand going through a rice-paper screen.

        God, I sound like a hippy but still, I say we should avail ourselves to cleaning up the oceans. The heavens can wait.

        • another intruder with the mooring in the heart of the Perl

        First of all let's figure out what is required to bring something down to Earth that is orbiting, say, 499 km up.

        The lowest effort way to bring an object in a circular orbit into an orbit where it will intersect the Earth is the rocket firing at apoapsis required in a Hohmann transfer orbit. Thanks to wikipedia I know that the change in velocity required is:

        sqrt(u/r2)(1-sqrt(2r1/(r1+r2)))
        where u is a constant that for the Earth is about 400,000 km**3*s**(-2), r1 is 6470 km (99 km high, just grazing the atmosphere. And r2 is 400 km more than that, or 6870. Plugging those numbers in you need to slow down by about 0.115 km/second, or about 415 km/h.

        So if you line everything up correctly, your "gentle" impact has to change the velocity of the junk by several hundred km/h. Basically you're having the junk hit about as fast as a bullet hits, and are hoping that the junk bounces off in one piece and doesn't knock off any shrapnel. (Pieces of shrapnel would, of course, themselves become space junk that would need removal as well...) Also to have the collision happen at less than tens of thousands of km/hour, you have to set up a fairly precise rendezvous between the spacecraft and the junk, which maneuver will be the vast bulk of the overall cost.

        The difficulty and risk of this maneuver doesn't strike me as remotely worthwhile. I believe it would make more sense to rendezvous fairly precisely with each piece of junk, take it into the spacecraft, and rendezvous with the next piece. The weight you save on the spacecraft (lighter = cheaper maneuvering) and lower risks more than make up for the extra bit of maneuvering you have to do.

        EDIT: Clarified the shrapnel issue, and explained further why this makes no sense.

      How do you define an orbit for property purposes?

      I'm sure there are many definitions. I'm also pretty sure that orbits are already defined in some fashion because there are thousands of satellites up there that (IIRC) have never collided in the 50 years we've been putting stuff up there. I'm pretty sure that a company devoted to registering orbits would come up with a pretty good way of describing them.

      That there are important orbits that may have many things in them. (Geostationary orbit is the most notable example.)

      Said company(s) would start their registries non-empty.

      That orbital mechanics are chaotic, so any object placed in orbit will eventually wind up in a different orbit.

      Either that can be accounted for in a satellite without the ability to maneuver or maneuvering capability would be required.

      For each owner of an orbit, it is easier to just avoid stuff crossing your orbit than it is to clean that stuff up.

      If you don't want to clean it up and feel you can avoid it, then great! I've gone without health insurance for months at a time in the past. Even though I was fine, I still pay through the nose right now for it. If I just paid M$50 to make a satellite and get it into the right orbit and I have B$20 in future revenues riding on it, I'll be willing to pay M$10 (or something in that range) to increase its chances of survival. It's almost like a company that pays for improvements in a CPAN module. The company is paying for the benefits they are reaping and costs are calculated from that perspective. That there is an improvement to a commonly-held property is good advertising.

      Also any attempt to clean up junk that is crossing one orbit is fairly likely to move it into someone else's orbit.

      I think BrowserUk's solution would work quite nicely. With registration of lower orbits, that kind of work is pretty simple to time.

      Even if you propose a solution to these problems, you have the bigger problem of how to agree on regulations that have to cover multiple countries. Do you really think that China or India is in any mood to accept a division imposed by the USA, Europe and Russia about who may use what parts of space? And what about the smaller powers? According to Wikipedia there are 45 countries with space agencies. Many, admittedly, do not launch their own satellites. But getting that many countries to agree on a complex legal system involving space is going to be very, very tricky.

      What legal system? The only thing that even touches legalities is what courts to use for civil suits. Multinationals have been dealing with that issue since well before the East India Tea Company. Forum-shopping is a completely normal part of corporate law. If there's a crime on board a ship (or other space entity), you apply the provisions currently attaining to a crime at sea. That's worked well enough for hundreds of years. The key here is to avoid the nation-states and to appeal to the corporations. Yes, corporations are rapaciously greedy bastards that look out only for number 1. I can't think of many countries that don't qualify for that description.

      I don't have all the answers off the top of my head. I do believe, very strongly, that all the issues you're raising are issues that are solvable by for-profit entities. And, frankly, solvable in better ways than nations could do so. In my eye, the "Tragedy of the Commons" is a for-profit opportunity to take the commons private for cheap, invest to improve it, then lease out usage. At least under private management, the commons wouldn't deteriorate because the owners have a motive to keep it in good shape.


      My criteria for good software:
      1. Does it work?
      2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
        How do you define an orbit for property purposes?
        I'm sure there are many definitions. I'm also pretty sure that orbits are already defined in some fashion because there are thousands of satellites up there that (IIRC) have never collided in the 50 years we've been putting stuff up there. I'm pretty sure that a company devoted to registering orbits would come up with a pretty good way of describing them.
        You are completely wrong about that. There is no overall coordination. Cooperation between any two countries will vary widely. For instance on space, the USA and Russia cooperate. The USA has absolutely no cooperation in space with China. The thousands of satellites have never collided simply because each has maneuvering capability and because space is a big enough place that they rarely come close to each other unintentionally.

        Any thought to the contrary is wishful thinking on your part.

        That there are important orbits that may have many things in them. (Geostationary orbit is the most notable example.)
        Said company(s) would start their registries non-empty.
        Considering the number of companies and governments that have satellites in geostationary orbit, and the economic importance of those satellites (ever heard of satellite TV?), ownership of geocentric orbit is very problematical. And even if you assigned ownership, if India (say) decided to put an unapproved satellite into geocentric orbit, what is the "owner" going to do about it?
        That orbital mechanics are chaotic, so any object placed in orbit will eventually wind up in a different orbit.
        Either that can be accounted for in a satellite without the ability to maneuver or maneuvering capability would be required.
        You should assume that satellites have maneuvering capability. They invariably do because they need the capability to maneuver perfectly into their final orbit, and there is always some fuel left over. (Better too much than too little, if you run out and the satellite does not hit the right orbit, that's a failed launch.)

        You should not take it as granted that it is always desirable for satellites to remain in one orbit. As I noted, one of the cheaper (and admittedly slower) ways to get to the Moon is through using the orbital chaos, which necessarily means going through lots of other orbits.

        For each owner of an orbit, it is easier to just avoid stuff crossing your orbit than it is to clean that stuff up.
        If you don't want to clean it up and feel you can avoid it, then great! I've gone without health insurance for months at a time in the past. Even though I was fine, I still pay through the nose right now for it. If I just paid M$50 to make a satellite and get it into the right orbit and I have B$20 in future revenues riding on it, I'll be willing to pay M$10 (or something in that range) to increase its chances of survival. It's almost like a company that pays for improvements in a CPAN module. The company is paying for the benefits they are reaping and costs are calculated from that perspective. That there is an improvement to a commonly-held property is good advertising.
        The point that you just missed is that your attempt to avoid the tragedy of the commons by asserting property rights just failed horribly. Any specific piece of junk crosses many, many orbits. Many pieces of junk cross any particular orbit. Junk is individually easy to dodge, only needs to be dodged very rarely, but it is difficult to remove the junk. The result? Nobody will find it in their interest to ever remove any junk.
        Also any attempt to clean up junk that is crossing one orbit is fairly likely to move it into someone else's orbit.
        I think BrowserUk's solution would work quite nicely. With registration of lower orbits, that kind of work is pretty simple to time.
        Clearly neither you nor BrowserUk studied physics. As my reply to him showed, his solution is untenable.
        Even if you propose a solution to these problems, you have the bigger problem of how to agree on regulations that have to cover multiple countries. Do you really think that China or India is in any mood to accept a division imposed by the USA, Europe and Russia about who may use what parts of space? And what about the smaller powers? According to Wikipedia there are 45 countries with space agencies. Many, admittedly, do not launch their own satellites. But getting that many countries to agree on a complex legal system involving space is going to be very, very tricky.
        What legal system? The only thing that even touches legalities is what courts to use for civil suits. Multinationals have been dealing with that issue since well before the East India Tea Company. Forum-shopping is a completely normal part of corporate law. If there's a crime on board a ship (or other space entity), you apply the provisions currently attaining to a crime at sea. That's worked well enough for hundreds of years. The key here is to avoid the nation-states and to appeal to the corporations. Yes, corporations are rapaciously greedy bastards that look out only for number 1. I can't think of many countries that don't qualify for that description.
        The legal system that would be necessary to register and enforce any kind of private ownership of orbits. Particularly when there is nothing resembling a scarcity of orbits that are available, and there is no incentive for any country to pay attention to any other country.
        I don't have all the answers off the top of my head. I do believe, very strongly, that all the issues you're raising are issues that are solvable by for-profit entities. And, frankly, solvable in better ways than nations could do so. In my eye, the "Tragedy of the Commons" is a for-profit opportunity to take the commons private for cheap, invest to improve it, then lease out usage. At least under private management, the commons wouldn't deteriorate because the owners have a motive to keep it in good shape.
        Believe what you want.

        For my part I believe, very strongly, that you are entirely and absolutely wrong on this subject. You have demonstrated complete ignorance of the relevant economic theory, physics, and international law affecting this matter. Instead you have a blind faith in the magic of private markets and no awareness of the well documented limitations of markets, nor the necessary role of governmental regulation in creating them.

        This thread is a reminder to me that I should be careful about deciding whether to enter non-programming conversations on a programming website. Because it is frustrating trying to convince people of basic facts that they don't get because they lack the relevant background, and when they don't even realize that the relevant background is important to know. At least when discussing programming, people are more likely to have the background they need to understand the points which are made.

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