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18 November 1998 Orbital debris removal and meteoroid deflection
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Abstract
Orbital debris in low-Earth orbit in the size range from 1 to 10 cm in diameter can be detected but not tracked reliably enough to be avoided by spacecraft. It can cause catastrophic damage even to a shielded spacecraft. With adaptive optics, a ground-based pulsed laser ablating the debris surface can produce enough propulsion in several hundred pulses to cause such debris to reenter the atmosphere. A single laser station could remove all of the 1 - 10 cm debris in three years or less. A technology demonstration of laser space propulsion is proposed which would pave the way for the implementation of such a debris removal system. The cost of the proposed demonstration is comparable with the estimated annual cost of spacecraft operations in the present orbital debris environment. Orbital debris is not the only space junk that is deleterious to the Earth's environment. Collisions with asteroids have caused major havoc to the Earth's biosphere many times in the ancient past. Since the possibility still exists for major impacts of asteroids with the Earth, it shown that it is possible to scale up the systems to prevent these catastrophic collisions providing sufficient early warning is available from new generation space telescopes plus deep space radar tracking.
© (1998) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Jonathan W. Campbell, Charles R. Taylor, Larry L. Smalley, and Thomas Dickerson "Orbital debris removal and meteoroid deflection", Proc. SPIE 3434, Image Intensifiers and Applications; and Characteristics and Consequences of Space Debris and Near-Earth Objects, (18 November 1998); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.331226
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