#1032: SpaceShop

As ever, when I hear of some problem, I’m usually thinking of a way to turn it to advantage.

There is now so much junk up there in space that the shuttle is having to jink out of the way occasionally to avoid the odd bag of tools or gas oven that they jettisoned on a previous orbit. Even colliding with a fleck of paint, at the kinds of relative velocity available in orbit, can cause toughened glass to perforate.

Andy_Barrass_machining

Today’s invention is to make use of this space junk. When building giant machines in orbit, as I believe is planned for eg forthcoming space stations, it would surely be useful to have a serious drilling facility. Instead of injecting a huge machine into space, align the workpiece in the back of a shuttle or equivalent and steer towards a piece of junk of the right size and velocity.

Presto, guaranteed holes in whatever you want. This technique might also be used to erode the surface of workpieces, providing a form of milling machine.

There would need to be a ‘swarf shield’ following this workshop, to catch the resulting debris, but at least much of its kinetic energy would have been dissipated as heat in the machining process. This heat might also be used to form materials in eg casting and forging processes.

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