China Thinks Lasers Are The Best Way To Clean Up Space Debris

China is looking into ways to utilize a laser to clear up Earth's orbit of space debris.

China wants to zap the space debris surrounding Earth with a laser.

Where there are people, there’s junk, and Earth is the only place that we know of where garbage is as common as the oxygen we breathe. So it wouldn’t come as a surprise that Earth’s orbit is littered with discarded satellites that are waiting to burn up in the atmosphere or even worse, crash into their functioning counterparts. China, on the other hand, thinks it could deal with this issue by blasting space debris with a high-powered laser.

There have been plans in the past that dealt with eliminating the hovering threat, with NASA at one point considering using jets of gas to slow down debris, thus causing it to fall to Earth. Research conducted by aerospace company, Lockheed Martin, and others have concluded that the junk orbiting Earth poses a serious threat to functional satellites, all of which are multi-million dollars investments. Europe was even considering using a giant net to manage the debris.

Now China has proposed a solution, one that would break space debris into less harmful pieces. Researchers at the Air Force Engineering University in China have published a paper in the journal, Optik, which suggests that mounting a laser on a satellite would effectively clean up Earth’s orbit of space debris.

“This paper investigated the impacts of orbital elements of space-based laser station on small-scale space debris by numerical simulation,” the researchers wrote.

Researchers said that their simulations established velocity variation of the space debris as well as its potential orbit maneuver once the junk would be “irradiated” by the laser.

The simulations revealed that debris removal is affected by inclination and RAAN (right ascension of ascending node of the laser station). According to the researchers,  the theoretical application of a space-based laser station hold enough ground for achieving high removal efficiency

The only way to see if the laser works, however, is by testing it in space, according to the researchers.

Image Source: WikipediaCommons


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