Breaking a Space Traffic Jam
Breaking a Space Traffic Jam. A space towboat captures a derelict satellite to remove it from orbit. Artwork from an advertisement for American Bosch Arma Corporation, 1960. Illustrated by Frank Tinsley.
"Steps in the race to outer space. By 1970 our solar system will be filled with expended satellites—whirling aimlessly in space with dead batteries and electronic equipment, their missions long since completed. As space traffic increases, these derelicts will have to be captured and broken out of orbit to keep flight paths clear.
"For this task, special towboats will be designed. The towboat, driven by electro-particle propulsion, rockets into space at speeds reaching 25,000 mph. Its reversible engines enable it to slow as it approaches the radar- located satellite, and match the derelict's speed as it moves into orbit behind it.
"Crewmen attach lines to the satellite, then they haul the towboat forward and its nose cone is clamped to the satellite's rocket nozzle. The towboat's engines are then switched to full reverse. When a a safe point is reached, the towboat releases the satellite and it is consumed by friction as it plunges into the atmosphere. The towboat moves on to its next assignment, breaking a traffic jam in some other congested point in space."
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