Aerospace giant Boeing has developed a novel means of clearing space junk from low Earth orbit: A cloud of ballistic gas. Most space junk-clearing schemes involve launching something up there to physically de-orbit debris, but this means launching rocket stages into orbit that then become more orbital debris. Boeing’s solution: Launch a rocket full of cryogenic inert gas right to the very edge of space, then forcibly eject tons of vaporized gas further upward into an orbiting debris cluster.
Another week, another scheme to clean up our bourgeoning space debris problem. This one, like many before it, calls for a powerful ground-based laser to remove orbital debris from low earth orbit. Using high-powered laser pulses fired from the ground, the system would create a small plasma jet emanating from the piece of junk itself, essentially turning each piece of debris into its own laser-powered rocket that would remove itself from orbit.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.