Russian space agency Roscosmos has made public its plan to shoot down space debris from a junk-littered low-earth orbit with a three-meter laser ‘cannon.’ If the tests are successful, the method will ensure safer space exploration.
The technology is being developed by scientists at the Research-and-Production Corporation Precision Systems, which is a subdivision of Roscosmos, the rt.com reports.
In its report to the Russian Academy of Sciences, the company requested for support for its research and development, as well as experimental work to create a solid-state laser that will be able to blast space junk by vaporizing it with a beam.
The potent ‘laser cannon’ will be situated on a three-meter optical telescope, construction of which is already underway. The telescope, designed to monitor space for satellites and potentially unsafe space junk, will be transformed into an equally giant laser if the project is greenlighted.
A type of solid-base generator will supply power to the laser, the report, seen by RIA Novosti, says. The space trash destroyer will use the process known as “laser ablation” to remove the debris from spaceships or any other junk, like a cosmonaut's lost glove floating in low-earth orbit, which is between 160 to 2,000 kilometers (100-1,240 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The laser's energy heats an object that is pierced with a beam until it gradually evaporates.
NASA estimates that there are over 500,000 pieces of space junk “the size of a marble or larger,” which can be tracked as they journey at speeds of up to 17,500 miles per hour around the Earth. It cautions that even “a relatively small piece of orbital debris” can cause damage upon spacecraft and satellites. Of about 500,000 pieces of space debris, 20,000 are “larger than a softball.”