Could Ground-Based Lasers De-Orbit Space Junk?

An interesting paper was recently published proposing to use ground-based high-intensity pulsed lasers to bring down small objects in low Earth orbit.

Among the approaches to the proposed mitigation and remediation of the space debris problem is the de-orbiting of objects in low Earth orbit through irradiation by ground-based high-intensity pulsed lasers. Laser ablation of a thin surface layer causes target recoil, resulting in the depletion of orbital angular momentum and accelerated atmospheric re-entry. However, both the magnitude and direction of the recoil are shape dependent, a feature of the laser-based remediation concept that has received little attention. Since the development of a predictive capability is desirable, we have investigated the dynamical response to ablation of objects comprising a variety of shapes. We derive and demonstrate a simple analytical technique for calculating the ablation-driven transfer of linear momentum, emphasizing cases for which the recoil is not exclusively parallel to the incident beam. For the purposes of comparison and contrast, we examine one case of momentum transfer in the low-intensity regime, where photon pressure is the dominant momentum transfer mechanism, showing that shape and orientation effects influence the target response in a similar, but not identical, manner. We address the related problem of target spin and, by way of a few simple examples, show how ablation can alter the spin state of a target, which often has a pronounced effect on the recoil dynamics.


(Bringing down space junk [pdf])
Geometry used to estimate the velocity change required to obtain a pre- determined perigee via the initial stage of a Hohmann transfer (scales exaggerated for clarity). Starting from a counter-clockwise circular orbit (solid curve) with radius r, an impulse opposite the velocity vector, resulting in a velocity change v, is applied at the transfer point. The perturbed orbit (elliptical until capture; dashed curve) is characterized by its semi-major axis a and perigee rp, where rp is suciently low for re-entry to occur.

SF great Arthur C. Clarke had a similar idea, but he wanted to use lasers to blast them from orbit with appropriately equipped ships.

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.

Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task. Their radars - designed to locate oncoming missles at extreme ranges with no advance warning - could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age. Then their lasers vaporized the smaller satellites, while the larger ones were nudged into higher and harmless orbits.

From Pulsed Laser Interactions with Space Debris: Target Shape E ects.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/18/2013)

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 ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Comercial Airlock 'Bishop' Now On ISS
'They put the bones and the glass can that had contained the soup into the double-doored partition or vestibule...' - John Jacob Astor IV, 1894.

Space Station Could Use Some Martian Sawgrass
'What better purifying machine is there than a plot of grass?' - George O. Smith, 1942.

Arches Of Chaos: Jovian Space Manifolds Create A Celestial Autobahn
'Commute ships roared on all sides, as Ed Morris made his way wearliy home to Earth at the end of a long hard day at the office.' Philip K. Dick,

ESA Space Claw To Grab Space Junk
Now, where have I seen this idea before?

 

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

DALL-E Makes Creative Images From Text
Okay, sf fans. If you could have some art created from a science fiction sentence, what sentence would you pick?

BladeBUG Robots Clean Massive Wind Turbine Blades
'There were the cleaners, with large padded feet, who were apparently polishing their way the whole length...'

Looms To Manually Weave Lunar Rover Wheels
It's fascinating to me how the Apollo program forced people to think outside their usual boxes.

IceBot Antarctic (Planetary?) Robotic Explorers Made Of Ice
'Some will combine in place to form more complicated structures, like excavators or centipedes.'

Glad 2020 Is Over
Maybe you missed one of these?

PEDOT Polymer Could Enhance Brain-Machine Interfaces
'the hair-fine wire going deep into Owen's brain, down into the pleasure center.'

Study: Robots Encourage Humans To Take Risks
Not exactly Three Laws compliant.

Kinetic Buildings And Psychotropic Houses
'There was a dim whirring, and the spheres tipped and began to rotate...'

Jupe Urban Escape Pods Have Tesla, SpaceX Roots
'The houses are prefabricated units... and they sell at the flat rate of five hundred dollars a room set up.'

Best Robot Dance Video Of 2020
'I can Mashed Potato... I can do the Twist.'

Vertical Farm In Singapore's Output Is 1.5 Tons Per Day
'A towering eighty-story structure like the office "In-and-Out" baskets stacked up to the sky.'

3D Printed 'Blisk' Manufactured In Orbit
'It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Comercial Airlock 'Bishop' Now On ISS
'They put the bones and the glass can that had contained the soup into the double-doored partition or vestibule...'

Space Station Could Use Some Martian Sawgrass
'What better purifying machine is there than a plot of grass?'

ARTUu AI Copilot For USAF
'A series of short beep's and chirps issued from his speaker...'

Smellicopter Combines Live Moth Antenna With Mechanical Drone
'The organic tissue is inserted in the master tank and then sealed.'

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.