Space debris problem
NASA says that there are hundreds of thousands of pieces of trash that litter the space around our planet. They range from debris as large as defunct satellites to chips of paint smaller than 1 centimeter. As such, some of these junks pose more danger than others. As a whole, this debris field is getting crowded enough that some researchers think it may hinder humankind?s future space endeavors.
Scientists are already working on ways on how to track these debris better in order to devise strategies that can solve the problem, according to the Smithsonian. ?As mentioned, the latest of these ideas involve the ISS being equipped with wide-angle telescope and powerful lasers to detect and zap those space debris.
High efficiency fibre-based laser system
Last week, an international team of scientists from the Riken Institute detailed their laser-powered solution in the journal called Acta Astronautica. The paper is published in the journal?s website and is entitled ?Demonstration designs for the remediation of space debris from the International Space Station.?
The group propose blasting tons of space junk out of orbit using fiber optic lasers mounted on the International Space Station. The plan will make use of the Extreme Universe Space Observatory (EUSO) telescope that is presently integrated into the ISS; the scientists recommend that the telescope be converted into a tool for spotting space debris. The process will also employ a ?high efficiency fibre-based laser system,? also known as CAN laser, to fire upon the objects until they lose their orbit. The researchers claim that this system can effectively detect and destroy debris as small as one centimeter in diameter.
GizMag.com further explains that once a piece was located, the system would instruct the laser to direct intense pulses of focused light onto it. In a process known as plasma ablation, ?The intense laser beam will produce high-velocity plasma ablation and the resulting reaction force will weaken the object?s orbital velocity, thereby sending it burning down upon reentry to the Earth?s atmosphere.
“Our proposal is radically different from the more conventional approach that is ground based, and we believe it is a more manageable approach that will be accurate, fast, and cheap,” said Toshikazu Ebisuzaki, one of the scientists working on this strategy. “We believe that this dedicated system could remove most of the centimeter-sized debris within five years of operation,” he added.