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ORION : Clearing near-Earth space debris using a 20-kW, 530-nm, Earth-based, repetitively pulsed laser
When a large piece of space debris forced a change of flight plan for a recent U.S. Space Shuttle mission, the concept that we are trashing space as well as Earth finally attained broad public awareness. Almost a million pieces of debris have been generated by 35 years of spaceflight, and now threaten long-term space missions. The most economical solution to this problem is to cause space debris items to reenter and burn up in the atmosphere. For safe handling of large objects, it is desired to do this on a precomputed trajectory. Due to the number, speed, and spacial distribution of the objects, a highly agile source of mechanical impulse, as well as a quantum leap in detection capability are required. For reasons we will discuss, we believe that the best means of accomplishing these goals is the system we propose here, which uses a ground-based laser system and active beam phase error correcting beam director to provide the impulse, together with a new, computer-intensive, very high-resolution optical detection system to locate objects as small as 1 cm at 500-km range. Illumination of the objects by the repetitively pulsed laser produces a laser-ablation jet that gives the impulse to de-orbit the object. A laser of just 20-kW average power and state-of-the-art detection capabilities could clear near-Earth space below 100-km altitude of all space debris larger than 1 cm but less massive than 100 kg in about 4 years, and all debris in the threatening 1-20-cm size range in abo
Cambridge University Press
ISSN : 0263-0346 CODEN : LPBEDA
Laser and particle beams (Print) A. 1996, vol. 14, n° 1, pp. 1-44 [bibl. : 1 p.1/4]
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