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Future Tech: Obliterating space junk with a laser cannon

15 Oct 2019, 09:11 UTC
Future Tech: Obliterating space junk with a laser cannon
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The resulting laser beam will have to be powerful enough to heat up objects in low-Earth orbit at least 160 kilometres (100 miles) away. Image credit: All About Space/Adrian Mann
It’s not quite the calibre of the Death Star from Star Wars, but Russian space agency Roscosmos is planning to build a laser cannon that will clean up low-Earth orbit, one piece of space junk at a time. Scientists at the Research-and-Production Corporation Precision Systems, which is a subdivision of Roscosmos, aim to attach a giant laser cannon on to a three-metre optical telescope. This laser cannon would have a carefully designed mechanism attached to the telescope, which utilises a series of reflective mirrors, a quartz flash tube and a solid-base generator power supply to create a laser beam powerful enough to evaporate pieces of metal floating around in space.
This telescope is already under development, and its main purpose is to monitor satellites and any potentially dangerous pieces of space junk floating between 160 to 2,000 kilometres (100 to 1,242 miles) above the Earth’s surface. NASA estimates that there are over 500,000 pieces of space junk that are marble-sized or larger in low-Earth orbit, and they can reach speeds ...

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