I ran across this paper Propagation of Surface-to-LEO Vortex Rings For Orbital Debris Management by a kid working on his BS degree in Mechanical Engineering.

I really want to believe that something like this could work, but my math is weak while my spirit is willing.

Just how plausible could this sort of thing be?


Noyes includes a graph from a SpaDE concept paper that shows a good-enough-to-deorbit-debris pulse from a weather balloon detonation -- at the same altitude as the debris of 96.6km (though I admit I did not review the original SpaDE paper).

He then includes a brief literature review about the propagation of stable vortices in a wind tunnel (i.e. at sea level).

Using atmospheric model from the SpaDE paper (again, used at 96.6km and which is claimed to be valid down to 30km), plus the wind tunnel vortex data from sea level, Noyes claims that vortices could plausibly remain intact from the surface to orbital altitudes.

Without commenting on the concept in general, I find this argument to be unconvincing. The atmospheric model cannot be applied to the vortex data (or vice versa), so I don't see how we can draw any conclusions from the two together.

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    $\begingroup$ And how would a vortex propagate out there? Sure there are gas molecules, but they're basically moving on free paths, not interacting enough to sustain a vortex. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Dec 20 '18 at 5:44

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