Re: DARPA Solicitation: DARPA-SN-09-68

STRONG ODR - Orbital Debris Remover (ODR)

Over the past decade space-faring nations have become aware of the dangers posed by orbital debris to manned and un-manned space operations. This "space junk" travels at 5 miles per second, about 10 times as fast as a speeding bullet, and multiplies as larger objects collide and break apart into smaller pieces.

The U.S. Space Surveillance Network has cataloged more than thirty-five thousand man-made objects. Nearly twenty thousand of those objects remain in orbit today, ninety-four percent of which are non-functioning orbital debris. Hundreds-of-thousands of objects too small to be cataloged, but still large enough to pose a threat to approximately nine-hundred operational satellites in orbit around the Earth. Many countries, to minimize the generation of debris and slow the growth of the orbital debris population, have adopted mitigation measures, such as post-mission disposal.

However, since January 2007 we have experienced a nearly fifty percent increase in the number of cataloged debris objects. This increase is largely due to the intentional destruction of the active Chinese satellite, Fengyun-1C, by the Chinese government in 2007, as well as the collision between an active Iridium satellite and a retired Russian Cosmos communications satellite in February 2009.


This computer-generated artist's impression
depicts an approximation of 12,000 objects in
orbit around the Earth.
*courtesy European Space Agency (ESA)


Fig. 1. STRONG ODR Prototype


STRONG ODR Capabilities:

  • Identifies small (1-10mm), medium (1-10 cm) and large (derelict spacecraft and expended rocket bodies) sized debris.

  • Strategically removes all objects across a range of altitudes.

  • Quickly clears congested regions of all debris by forcing the debris towards the earth’s atmosphere for re-entry incineration.

  • Operates in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), sun-synchronous and Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO).

  • Thermionic conversion powered thrusters and hydrogen power plant.

  • Debris Removal Reporting System (DRRS) relays removal data back to earth for analysis and trajectory planning.

  • Complies with international goals of debris mitigation.

  • Automatic quick-decay trajectory at EOL (end of life).


Safe Space Travel is Necessary for Important National and Global Reconnaissance Missions.

Zhawar Kili Base Camp, Afghanistan (pre-strike)
*courtesy U.S. Department of Defense


Branch Davidian Compound, Waco, Texas
*courtesy U.S. Department of the Treasury


The Sirius Star oil carrier hijacked by Somali pirates.
*courtesy GeoEye, Inc.


How is it possible to operate a vacuum in the vacuum of space?

STRONG ODR uses a series of three turbomolecular pumps to obtain and keep an ultra high vacuum (UHV). As the pumps operate, molecules are given increasing amounts of momentum as they are forced into lower and lower chambers and finally exit the exhaust pipe.

The frigid temperatures incurred when facing away from the sun keep the pumps cool and reduce outgassing. As hydrogen is diffused from the system it is captured and used as a secondary source of fuel.

These pumps are also used as pseudo-thrusters and a retro-rocket, to keep STRONG ODR on a stable flight path (FP).


The Sirius Star oil carrier hijacked by Somali pirates.
*courtesy GeoEye, Inc.

Please feel free to contact me at any time should you have any questions, comments or are in need of detailed cost estimates.

Robert Ray

Director, Contemporary Conflict Institute.
(773) 426-2828

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