Laser Thruster 'Tractor Beams' For Space Junk

The space near Earth is full of junk - if only we had some science-fictional tractor beams to pull that stuff out of the way!

As it turns out, space-flight engineer John Sinko of Nagoya University, Japan has a suggestion based on real science. A laser thruster could be used to fire laser pulses into a mass of solid propellant attached to an offending piece of space junk. The resulting force could push the object, altering its orbit and plunging it into the Earth's atmosphere, burning it up.


(Satellite laser thruster diagram)

[Sinko] has designed a series of laser thrusters that can be activated in this way. A spacecraft fitted with a laser would fire a low-power beam at a thruster fitted on another craft to attract, repel or steer it in another direction. Pushing a spacecraft away is a relatively simple matter, but more complex designs using mirrors are needed to use a beam to tug one towards the laser (see diagram above).

Combining those designs could allow full control in any direction, says Sinko. He imagines spacecraft being fitted with remotely operated thrusters before launch, so that once they reach the end of their lives it is simple to alter their orbit or even

Science fiction writers have been trying desperately to point out this problem and provide solutions. For example, how about an interplanetary garbage scow? Take a look at the 1977 television series Quark. This comedy, created by legendary writer Buck Henry, described the activities of the United Galaxies Sanitation Patrol Cruiser.


(Richard Benjamin and the Barnstable twins)

Richard Benjamin played Adam Quark, who worked to clean up trash in space. He is ably assisted by the Bettys, played by the Doublemint twins (Cyb and Patricia Barnstable).

In his 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke uses Operation Cleanup to make sure that low earth orbit is clear of debris for the newly constructed space elevator.

Fans may also recall Planetes, an anime series published by Makoto Yakimura in Japan starting in 1999. The series follows a team of debris cleaners who clear space junk from flight paths.


Planetes cover art

Read New Scientist for more details on the laser thruster.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/3/2010)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 5 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Habitability Of Galactic Bulge - Good News For Foundation Fans
'Toran resigned himself to days of careful plotting between Jumps.'- Isaac Asimov, 1955.

Lava Tubes On Mars And Moon May Be Huge
'Most of the stuff written about Bats' Cave gives a wrong impression.' - Robert Heinlein, 1957.

Powdered Regolith Propulsion
'... filling their great tanks with the finely divided dust which the ionic rockets would spit out in electrified jets.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1951.

Tether Asteroids To Save Us All
'If anything can glue the asteroids back into the planet they once were, magnology will do it.' - Richard Wilson, 1958.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Habitability Of Galactic Bulge - Good News For Foundation Fans
'Toran resigned himself to days of careful plotting between Jumps.'

Lava Tubes On Mars And Moon May Be Huge
'Most of the stuff written about Bats' Cave gives a wrong impression.'

Olfactory User Interfaces - Judith Amores Dissertation
Awakened with a whiff of lemon.

Personalized Masks Appear
'The tiger stripes on Jim's mask... made the young people easy to identify.'

Foiling Facial Recognition, Fighting Coaster Viruses, Harlan Ellison-Style
I have no mouth and I must scream.

Ford Uses Obedient Robot Dogs To Update Facilities Maps
'If he sent out two or three of the small tele-operated devices... [he] could see machinery and construction details in real time from both above and below.'

AirTouch Panels Means No More Dirty Touchscreens!
Useful interfaces now appear in thin air.

EllipticaRunner Robot Is Fast, Amazing, Slightly Worrisome
'THEY sent A SLAMHOUND on Turner's trail in New Delhi...'

SPECTER Electroshock Round Fireable From Shotgun
'...the balls sent by this gun are not ordinary balls, but little cases of glass.'

100 Terabyte Exadrive SSD Also Has Biggest Price
'A man could carry AIs or complete planetary dataspheres in a Schrön loop.'

Mechanical Milking Of Microalgae For Fuel Production
'They call 'em culture tanks. They have bugs -- germs -- growing in them.'

Feel Virtual Reality In Mid-Air!
'...a pressure on the lips - warm and soft, moist and sweet.'

Electric Lasso Gives Police Options
'The blast of silver threads enveloped her...'

TytoCare Offers Futuristic Home Care
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'

Powdered Regolith Propulsion
'... filling their great tanks with the finely divided dust which the ionic rockets would spit out in electrified jets.'

Ford's SafeCap, Opposite Of Niven and Barnes' Napcap
'In the napcap a client became an instant yoga master...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.