first_imgYou would not believe the amount of space junk orbiting our planet. Old satellites that have broken down. Discards junk and canisters from our space shuttles. Pieces of rock and debris that have been pulled into the Earth’s orbit. And so on! We can’t see any of it, so it doesn’t seem like much of a problem, but to the folks at NASA, every bit of space junk isn’t simply a piece of unsightly rubbish, but a potential hazard that can crash a space shuttle if they fly into it. As such, NASA spends tens of millions working on space junk modeling and detection programs, but it sounds as if after doing all of that, a lightbulb finally went off, and NASA asked themselves a simple question: why bother trying to track these tiny little bits of junk traveling around the earth at orbital speeds like bullets when you can just blast them out of the sky?Consequently, NASA scientists are now conducting an interesting study that looks at the possibility of using a ground-based laser to clean up the debris. According to the space agency, almost 60% of all the space junk orbiting the Earth right now that actually threatens the space shuttle and other satellites actually comes from two sources: the Chinese military test of an anti-satellite weapon (to prevent Reagan’s Star Wars) as well as the collission of the satellites Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251.They think they can blast this junk out of orbit using a medum-powered 5kW laser. The laser wouldn’t do its job by vaporizing anything. Instead, firing a laser at the junk would slow it in its orbit just enough that gravity would take hold and cause it to fall into the atmosphere, vaporizing before hitting the ground. It’s more than just a destructive system though. NASA hopes that, if successful, the system would eventually be able to be used to guide satellites to different positions in orbit, as well as destroy them if they became junk. Pretty neat. Dr. Evil would approve.Read more at Technology Review (via Technabob)last_img

NASA working on groundbased laser to destroy space junk

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