28 Jan '15, 4pm

Averting Space Doom: Solving the Orbital Junk Problem

Averting Space Doom: Solving the Orbital Junk Problem

How: High-powered lasers—fired either from the ground or from space—could slow down debris until it’s unable to maintain orbit and burns up in the atmosphere. A 1990s NASA project called Orion explored this possibility, but international agreements banning the use of lasers in space prevented any real testing. Experts say: Sedwick says such a system might work well for smaller debris, but like most other scientists, he believes the whole idea is still not technologically practical, let alone economically feasible. Another concern is that a laser could unintentionally break a piece of debris into several pieces, generating more junk. What: “Catchers” or “tugs” How: The idea is to use spacecraft to physically relocate space junk, either to lower-­altitude orbits where debris would burn up in the atmosphere or to higher-­altitude “graveyard” orbits. A spacecraft could use a c...

Full article: http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/satellites/averting-sp...

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