(Continued from Part 8)
“That’s not gonna’ happen,” Kendall insisted. “I haven’t had an asymmetrical collapse in all my years of para-gliding, and I’m sure not going to have one now.”
Kendall heard a sniffle. “Yes, Katya.”
“I can see you,” Katya said slowly and quietly, “I can see the station, through the top window of the elevator. The station is so small. I’m worried.
“Captain Parker,” Flight said. “Twelve minutes until impact. How much time will it take you and A4 to get to the reserves; to the emergency escape pods?”
“Look,” Kendall continued. “We’ve got the satellites re-distributing, now we just have to do something with M-479. Flight, what are all our options? Let’s get the smart people talking.”
“Okay Kendall,” Flight said. “We’ve been working on it. Houston has the following options so far.”
“Option One. Re-align M-479 back inline with the M-Sats.”
“Option Two. Re-align the stream of satellites downward in line with 479.”
“Is that realistic?” Kendall said.
“Option Three. Move M-479 laterally out of orbital plane so it passes harmlessly by the station.”
“Option Four. Move the satellite stream and the station out of plane so M-479 still passes harmlessly by the station.”
Five seconds passed.
“Is that all you’ve got?” Kendall said.
“Okay, Option Five. Destroy M-479.”
“How do we do that?”
“We can use the Station’s shape-able parabolic reflector to track and concentrate the sun’s energy on 479. The intense heating will cause the pressure vessel to explode.”
Silence for ten seconds.
“Well,” Kendall said. “There’s no way to move M-479 so options one and three are out and I’m not going to be a sitting duck for option five’s shotgun approach; one rogue bullet is better than a million pieces of shrapnel. The odd numbers are out and with station thrusters off line, option four is out. So it’s up to option two? How much time is needed to move the constellation and the station downward enough to align with 479?”
“We can’t move the station,” Dmitry called out. “At least not very fast. The axial and station keeping thrusters are still in calibration. If we lower too fast, the station might oscillate and cause a satellite maglev crash.”
“But what if we move slowly?” Kendall said. “Lower the station by lowering the constellation slowly.”
“Dad, do you think it will be in time?”
“We’re out of options, son. Make your calculations.”
“Okay,” Dmitry said. “But, it will require closed-loop control of the entire M-Sat constellation with feedback from all station and wing rail sensors. The bandwidth will be critical.“
“Okay, everyone,” Captain Parker commanded. “Option two it is. Flight, do you concur? How much time do we have left?”
“8 minutes, 30 seconds to collision.”
“Katya, are you getting telescope images yet? Can you lock on to the rogue trajectory?”
“Affirmative, M-479 clearly coming in low, but still within the orbital plane.”
“How could it still be in the orbital plane?” Kendall said.
“I don’t think this was caused by debris,” Katya said. “It would require an exact vertical impact.”
“If we can’t bump the sat, what about the M-Sat tethers?” Becca said. “Can M-478 and M-480, now that they are closer to M-479, launch their auxiliary tethers, lock onto M-479 from both sides and reel her in line?”
“Keep talking, Becca,” Becca’s father insisted.
“Affirmative,” Flight broke in. “Great idea Becca, but all we need is a nudge. We grapple M-479 with 478 and 480, then using M-Sat thrusters we play tug-a-war, to get M-479 moving outward till she’s in line with the others…”
“Negative,” Dmitry interrupted while preparing his M-Sat maneuver calculations. “Once you get M-479 moving outward, release the grapples and let her continue to move outward, moving higher than the M-Sat constellation and fly right by Polaris Station above, not below the wing.”
Again there was silence for a few seconds.
“Let’s do it, Houston,” Kendall ordered. “Execute the Becca/Dmitry maneuver now.”
“Sir,” A4 spoke up as he and Kendall continued descending down cord sixteen to the station’s main platform.
“There is a problem with this plan?”
“Do you have a better way to keep this thing from killing us?”
“No sir, but…”
(Continued at Part 10)