In order to combat the increasing amount of miscellaneous space debris orbiting around our planet, an international team of researchers led by Japan’s Riken research institute has proposed blasting the space trash out of orbit with a fiber optic laser.
The Riken team’s plan, which was recently published in the journal Acta Astronautica, entails the fastening of a fiber optic CAN laser to the International Space Station (ISS). Once mounted, it would be used to blast space junk identified by the Extreme Universe Space Observatory’s existing infrared telescope, which would be adapted to the task at hand.
As for what would happen to the trash, researchers indicated that the debris would burn up during reentry.
Toshikazu Ebisuzaki, the Riken team’s leader, indicated in a statement that they “plan to install a full-scale version” of their laser system on the ISS, which was partially evacuated back in January after a leak was detected, after installing a small, proof-of-concept version. The small variant entails a 20-centimeter telescope and a 100-strand laser while the “full-scale version” entails a 10,000-strand laser with a range of roughly 100 kilometers.
If that all goes well, we plan to install a full-scale version on the ISS, incorporating a three-meter telescope and a laser with 10,000 fibers, giving it the ability to deorbit debris with a range of approximately 100 kilometers. Looking further to the future, we could create a free-flyer mission and put it into a polar orbit at an altitude near 800 kilometers, where the greatest concentration of debris is found.
What are your thoughts on this international team of researchers and their plan to shoot debris out of orbit with a fiber optic laser attached to the International Space Station?