Russian Scientist Proposes Using Lasers to Melt Space Junk
That’s one way of doing it.
As we speak, thousands of tiny pieces of debris are clogging Earth’s orbit. Even entire dilapidated satellites are floating through space and have long served their purpose. In fact, an astonishing 60 percent of the roughly 6,000 satellites on our planet are no longer operational.
This is a problem as any collision could result in disaster – or the dreaded sequel effect known as Kessler syndrome, a cascade of collisions that creates new pieces of dangerous space debris that could make Earth orbit uninhabitable.
For this reason, the Russian physicist Egor Loktionov proposes a highly unusual intervention: the use of space-based lasers to melt non-functional satellites into plasma, reports the Academic Times.
As described in an article that will be published shortly in Acta Astronautica magazine, Loktionov has tested various spacecraft materials and how they respond to pulses from laser emissions.
“So far, many ways of detecting debris have been suggested, few are being tested and none are actually practiced,” Loktionov told the Academic Times. “In my opinion, laser space debris removal should be a cheaper, more reliable, and more flexible way to get the job done.”
Tidy up the room
“If lasers were shot from space, they would pose almost no threat,” Loktionov told the Academic Times. “We recommend considering more precise effects with space-based lasers or our recycling concept.”
As Loktionov suggested in a study published in 2019, the concept would reuse space debris in the form of molten plasma as fuel for laser-powered spacecraft.
The proposal is still relevant as our space debris problem will only get worse as SpaceX and Amazon plan to launch large constellations of broadband satellites with internet radiation. This means that no stone unturned should be left in the search for a way to address our growing problem with space debris – no matter how far the concept is.
CONTINUE READING: Orbital lasers could melt defective satellites without polluting the room [The Academic Times]
More about space debris: Europe launches a giant claw to snatch space debris