Science & Technology

Russian Space Agency Plans 3-Metre Laser Canon To Incinerate 'Space Junk'

| June 10 , 2018 , 15:33 IST

Space debris, more colloquially known as 'space junk' is a considerable challenge as space exploration expands, and many nations have come up with ideas to solve the space junk issue in low-earth orbit.

Russian space agency Roscosmos has unveiled its plan to target space junk by using a 3-metre laser 'cannon' to shoot down space debris from a low-earth orbit, local media said on Sunday. If the tests of the laser cannon prove successful, the method would be able to ensure safer space exploration.

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According to reports, the technology for the canon is being developed by scientists at Roscosmos' subdivision Research-and-Production Corporation Precision Systems. Their goal is to create a solid-state laser that would be able to shoot down space junk by vaporising it using a beam.

The laser cannon will be based on a 3-metre optical telescope concept which is already being constructed to monitor space for satellites and potentially dangerous space junk. If the laser project gets the go-ahead, the telescope would be transformed into a giant laser.

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The laser would use the process of laser ablation to remove debris from space ships or other space junk such as an astronaut/cosmonaut's lost glove floating in space.  

As per NASA estimations, there are more than 500,000 traceable pieces of space junk “the size of a marble or larger,” that are currently travelling at speeds of up to 28,163 km per hour around Earth. NASA further warned that even “a relatively small piece of orbital debris” can inflict considerable damage to spacecrafts and satellites.

Apart from Russia, Japan, China and Australia have also been working on methods of removing space debris. Japan in 2017 failed an attempt to clear space junk using a 700-meter tether created with help from a fishing company.