Space Station Could Get Laser Cannon to Destroy Orbital Debris

Kermit2

Joined Feb 5, 2010
4,162
this sounds like it would just be making larger numbers of small objects out of the bigger ones.
capturing the debris in a web of light weight, high strength fibers would be a better approach. like a roomba for orbital flight paths. :)
 

wayneh

Joined Sep 9, 2010
17,175
You guys didn't read the link. The idea is NOT to randomly explode large objects into smaller ones, it's to knock them out of orbit.

"...use the laser to vaporize a thin film of matter off the surface of debris. The resulting high-speed plasma would act like a rocket plume, nudging the junk downward, and away from the space station to eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere."
 

alfacliff

Joined Dec 13, 2013
2,458
then the plasma condenses into metal or whatever and is going the oposite direction, awsy from the earth creating a problem for whatever it runs into or into it.
 

BR-549

Joined Sep 22, 2013
4,928
I believe there will be problems.

If I read this right, the momentum(for decay) is added as a reaction to vaporization. I believe that is why they start high in orbit and work their way down. They need the vaporization to be on the space side.

I wonder what the heating time is? They gave some technical figures, but not a clear cooking time.

This time will need to be quick, so as to work on spinning objects.

Also......after all these years of reading about space debris, that is the largest "safe" size I ever heard of.

I also heard and read that a bb and smaller can do great damage. Even paint flakes.

When did that change?

A 10 mm projectile hurts. It's just under .40 caliber.
 

wayneh

Joined Sep 9, 2010
17,175
Yeah, and picture a bullet going 10-100X faster than that bullet!

I think they rely on the self-healing hull to at least close the hole to loss of gases. But it is hard to imagine a 20k mph bullet not passing straight thru the station and the astronauts. Maybe such a particle simply vaporizes and dissipates its energy before it breaches the hull of the station.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
27,418
this sounds like it would just be making larger numbers of small objects out of the bigger ones.
capturing the debris in a web of light weight, high strength fibers would be a better approach. like a roomba for orbital flight paths. :)
The web would have to be HUGE in order to have much effect, and it would have to be dense in order to catch the smallest objects of concern, and it would have to be extremely strong to withstand the tremendous impact forces of objects with high differential velocities, and it would have to be able to maintain or restore the shape of the net after each impact, and each impact would affect it's own orbit.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
27,418
Yeah, and picture a bullet going 10-100X faster than that bullet!

I think they rely on the self-healing hull to at least close the hole to loss of gases. But it is hard to imagine a 20k mph bullet not passing straight thru the station and the astronauts. Maybe such a particle simply vaporizes and dissipates its energy before it breaches the hull of the station.
I don't know what the maximum differential velocities are between a satellite and the space junk it is likely to encounter. But I would certainly think it could be very high, even for objects that are in stable orbits where one is polar and the other equatorial.

I doubt particles on the scale of a bullet could simply vaporize before breaching the hull. Look at what happens to heavily armored vehicles such as tanks when hit by purely kinetic weapons such as A-10 machine gun rounds or sabot penetrators.
 

wayneh

Joined Sep 9, 2010
17,175
I've long wondered how NASA deals with this issue. Crossed fingers?

I know they use significant padding to catch the small stuff.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
27,418
I think crossed fingers is a good description. The "official" policy is probably known as something like "Big sky, little rock."
 

ian field

Joined Oct 27, 2012
6,536
The claim is that particles <~1cm are not a huge threat.
Can't remember the actual figures I saw quoted, but orbiting space debris is travelling at some ridiculous speed like 27,000 MPH - the text stated that at that speed, a fleck of paint could cause significant damage to anything it hit.
 
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