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Proceedings Paper

Power beaming for orbital debris removal
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Paper Abstract

Orbital debris in low-Earth orbit ranging in size from 1 to 10 cm in diameter can be detected but not tracked reliably enough to be easily avoided by spacecraft. In addition, shielding protection is extremely difficult and costly to accomplish for sizes above 1 - 2 cm. Debris in this size regime traveling at mean velocities on the order of 20000 miles per hour may cause catastrophic damage. Using adaptive optics technologies, a ground-based pulsed laser of sufficient power ablating the debris particle's surface to produce small momentum changes may, in several hundred pulses, lower a target debris particle's perigee sufficiently for atmospheric capture. A single laser facility could remove all of the 1 - 10 cm debris below 1500 km in altitude in approximately three years. A technology demonstration of ground based laser removal 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.

Paper Details

Date Published: 14 September 1998
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 3343, High-Power Laser Ablation, (14 September 1998); doi: 10.1117/12.321604
Show Author Affiliations
Jonathan W. Campbell, NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Charles R. Taylor, Western Oregon Univ. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3343:
High-Power Laser Ablation
Claude R. Phipps, Editor(s)

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