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'Space Junk' Orbiting Earth to Be Blasted

21.04.2015  |  13:52
 Space Junk  Orbiting Earth to Be Blasted

Dead satellites and other objects that have come into Earth's orbit pose a threat to functional satellites floating just above the planet. In a move that sounds like the basis of a 1980's video game, scientists plan to eliminate an estimated 500,000 pieces of debris orbiting Planet Earth by "blasting" them away

Dead satellites and other objects that have come into Earth's orbit pose a threat to functional satellites floating just above the planet. In a move that sounds like the basis of a 1980's video game, scientists plan to eliminate an estimated 500,000 pieces of debris orbiting Planet Earth by "blasting" them away.

Researchers at the Riken Institute in Japan have devised a plan to rid the planet of this potential threat by blasting the 3,000 tons of debris through a fiber optic laser mounted on the International Space Station (ISS).​

​The team behind the concept plan to use the existing infrared telescope of the European Space Agency’s Extreme Universe Space Observatory (EUSO) – originally built to detect high-energy cosmic rays bombarding Earth – to track the spacejunk.

​Secondly, their proposed plan involves using a fiber-based laser system to shoot the objects until they are knocked out of their orbit and destroyed during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

“The new method combining these two instruments will be capable of tracking down and deorbiting the most dangerous space debris, around the size of one centimeter,” researches said in a statement released on April 17.

The researchers hypothesize that the intense laser beam, focused on the debris, will produce high-velocity plasma ablation, and the reaction force will reduce its orbital velocity, leading to its reentry into the earth's atmosphere.

A small proof-of-concept experiment on the ISS, using a small, 20 centimeter version of the EUSO telescope and a laser with 100 fibers, will be deployed soon.

A full-scale version on the ISS, incorporating a three-meter telescope and a laser with 10,000 fibers, will be installed if the former goes well.

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