TechNASA to use laser shooting satellites? That's how they want to get rid of trash

NASA to use laser shooting satellites? That's how they want to get rid of trash

Satellite shooting with a laser - illustrative picture
Satellite shooting with a laser - illustrative picture
©Aliaksandr Marko - stock.adobe.com
10:43 AM EDT, October 7, 2023

The amount of trash in Earth's orbit is continually increasing. These pose a threat to satellites in orbit, as well as launching spacecrafts. NASA supports an ambitious plan to create a laser system that will destroy this trash.

Scientists from West Virginia University have an idea that will help clean up Earth's orbit. For this purpose, they want to implement a special system that will allow for the destruction of debris circling our planet using a coordinated network of space lasers.

As we read on the university's website, Hang Woon Lee, Director of the Operational Space Systems Research Laboratory at West Virginia University, claims that around Earth we have a real junkyard of man-made trash. The more of it there is up there, the greater the risk that they will collide with manned and unmanned space objects.

In his opinion, the greatest chance of reducing the risk of collision is to build a network of lasers placed in outer space. These would be controlled by artificial intelligence, allowing them to maneuver, cooperate, and respond to debris of any size.

The idea appealed to NASA. The agency granted funding order of $200,000 annually for a period of three years to develop the concept. Currently, work is in the early stage. The research team is verifying whether the proposed algorithms for handling the system will be the correct and cost-effective solution.

"Our aim is to develop reconfigurable space lasers, together with a set of algorithms. These algorithms will be a supporting technology that will make the creation of such a network possible and maximize its benefits," says Lee.

Landfill of garbage in Earth's orbit

The problem of trash circulating in Earth's orbit is significant. As we read on the West Virginia University website, if a natural object, such as a micrometeoroid, hits a man-made object, even a piece as small as a paint fleck can have enough force to damage a satellite or even the International Space Station.

The need to clean up the orbit is even more urgent as a lot of objects have appeared on it in recent years. Examples include commercial telecommunication systems, such as Elon Musk's Starlink, or competing satellites from Amazon, which are launched into orbit as part of Project Kuiper.

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