Gravity, the fallout

Ok, so I just caught the movie and as always go to the dope for the spoilers thread to see what everyone else thought of it.

So , what exactly would be the fallout from this in a real life situation. Bearing in mind, that I have read the thread and the Kessler thing is real, but it takes time and not everything is in the same orbital plane.

To me, what I was seeing was about twenty trillion dollars doing a major tom. The GPS sats, the glosnoss sats, ISS, Shuttle, Chinese Space station, two soyuz capules, only one recovered. Actually we dont know what sats were lost, cause its hollywood, but for the sake of argument, thats what I am using.

Orbital space debris is now the major concern, how much can be reasonably expected to burn up de-orbiting (real life, whats the status of the chinese debris field). Do we launch nukes at pre set altitudes, or would this simply spray it out further. (Also assuming that the reason we dont fire nukes into space is the damage they cause to other sats, but going by the movie, quite a few sat makers and lockeed martin are going to be doing booming business (no pun))

Who gets that chinese soyuz clone. They own it obviously, but an American astronaut surving that , I kind of expect to see it in the smithsonian, with the rest of the historic space ships.

So do we ground all airplanes with all that orbital stuff coming down, initially.

Do we expect the economy to tank ,how dialed in , is the orbital network comms in terms of the economy.


Do you realize how fucking confusing it is when you ask a question but don’t use a question mark. You should go to school?

Yes. It is. Where’s yours?

Oh, there it is - in the wrong place.

I think babygoat was being facetious/sarcastic/ironic or sumpin.?!

And an American got it but an Englishman didn’t. That’s ironic?

Nukes in space are a bad idea because of the EMP. Moreover, a blast radius of a few miles isn’t going to obliterate much orbital debris, unless you’re lucky enough to detonate it when a whole lot of said debris happens to be within that radius.

If anything is going to have fallout, it’s Gravity.

Or Hair.

I considered it as a possibility, but adding it to the wrong sentence makes no sense as sarcasm - so this Englishman still doesn’t get it.

So go ahead and staple a burger king application to my grammar test.


Well from the movie, the ISS alone looks like it could take a few kilotons of loving. As well, if the orbital infrastructure is toast anyways, does emp really matter that much. (?) added for the english major.


It does for the folks on the ground.

Paging Stranger On A Train!

…Does anyone think it’s a good idea to start firing nuclear weapons into space? I’m going to vote no.

Attempting to use nuclear weapons to clear orbital debris would be ineffectual at best, and potentially catastrophic at worst with regard to both the E1 component of high altitute nuclear electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) and (depending on orbital altitude) pumping up new Van Allen belts which could pose a radiation hazard to remaining spacecraft. Although nuclear weapons which are detonated within the lower atmosphere produce impressive blast waves, this is due to heating of the atmosphere which absorbs the x-rays emitted by the device and turns them into the thermal pulse and overpressure wave which is so destructive. In space, you just get x-rays and gamma rays, neutrons, and a small amount of mechanical energy from the weapon itself being converted into plasma.

As it happens, I’ve worked on a few different proposals for orbital debris mitigation. If you look through the literature you will find a wide variety of solutions. Unfortunately, most of them depend on some kind of technology that doesn’t exist and will not be available in practicable for in the foreseeable future, or would make large swaths of orbital space uninhabitable for decades. For instance, many proposals involve using lasers to vaporize material off the debris to create a net impulse to reduce orbital speed. It’s a great notion…if you have the kind of gigawatt throughput lasers that would make George Chapline, Jr cream in his pants. In reality, such systems don’t exist. Other proposals involve giant magnetic scoops, shooting sand across orbits, and other wackadoodle ideas that are impracticable.

However, one of the better ideas known as “Cotton Candy” was to deploy large sheefs of silica aerogel in orbit, through which debris would punch through; the gel would attach an attract more gel, eventually adding enough mass that the object would fall into lower orbits and then into the upper atmosphere. By varying the density and amount of deployed aerogel you could control which size of debris is removed, although the aerogel would obviously interfere with optics and other sensitive instruments.

All of this applies to debris in Low Earth orbit. Debris and abandoned spacecraft in upper orbits can’t be readily moved to lower orbit without creating more hazard, hence why satellites in these orbits are required to have onboard propulsion systems in order to retire them. Of course, you could use some of the same methods discussed above to collect material, but given the amount of energy required to get it up from the Earth’s surface to that orbit, it would actually make a whole lot more sense to recover, recycle, and reuse that material in situ. This would require an infrastructure which is itself a huge investment, but the benefits would be long lasting and potentially highly profitable compared to the marginal advantages of the space launch business.

Anyway, no nukes. They don’t address the fundamental problem of getting rid of debris, they introduce additional hazards to both space and ground equipment, and of course sending nuclear weapons into orbit is for all intents and purposes weaponizing space even if the intent is ostensibly benign.