Satellites and other spacecrafts have faced a lot of problems due to orbital debris in the recent past. As a result, scientists, for quite some time, have been looking for ways to get rid of the debris.
We have seen researchers proposing concepts like sails, nets, gas and clouds for collecting those unwanted substances and making sure that the spacecrafts can move around without any obstruction.
While those technologies managed to capture bigger obstacles, they couldn’t get hold of the smaller pieces of debris. This forced scientists to carry out further experiments for finding effective ways of eliminating the small celestial debris. Recently, an international team of researchers has started working on a project that involves development of a system capable of shooting those small pieces of debris with a powerful laser beam.
It would be a space-based system consisting of two primary components; they are: a EUSO telescope developed by its team at the Riken research institute in Japan and a highly powerful fiber-optic based laser.
EUSO originally developed the telescope for detecting ultraviolet emissions from the ultra high energy cosmic rays traveling into our planet’s atmosphere at night. Toshikazu Ebisuzaki, the EUSO expert leading this project, found out that the same telescope would also be useful for detecting high velocity fragments of extraterrestrial debris at twilight.
The moment the telescope will spot and locate a piece of debris, it will be instructing the fiber-optic based laser to send intense beams of light in the direction of the detected debris. This will result in occurrence of a process called plasma ablation.
For those who don’t know: plasma ablation is a process that results in heating up of one side of a given object and subsequently turns it into plasma. This conversion will create thrust, which in turn will send the targeted debris down so that they burn out in the outer space.
The scientists will first carry out a test to determine the efficacy of this newly discovered system. They are planning to use a hundred fiber laser and a 20cm telescope for shooting down and destructing debris around the International Space Station. If they get desired results, they will replace the telescope and laser with their full scale versions.