President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Sergeev said that the use of lasers for cleaning the near-earth orbit has been considered for a long time.
The International Space Station (ISS) can receive a laser for shooting space debris.
Boris Shustov, Chairman of the Expert Group of the Council on Space Threats, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told about the development of such an installation, which is being conducted by an international group of scientists.Now, in order to protect the ISS from space debris, evasion maneuvers are carried out using the engines of the station itself or docked cargo ships. Maneuvers are carried out several times a year.
“At the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the first satellite at the Space Research Institute, a meeting of the working group was held in which scientists from Italy, France, Japan and Russia agreed that international cooperation will be formed. All of them will think over the application of orbital lasers placed on the ISS to avoid collisions with small, several centimeters, but the most numerous and therefore the most dangerous debris of space debris, “Shustov said.
The President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexander Sergeev, noted that the use of lasers for cleaning the near-earth orbit has been considered for a long time.
“Now in Japan and Europe, the projects of creating such installations are being seriously discussed.The parameters of lasers that are now available, both at average power and at peak power, are sufficient for solving the problem of changing the orbit of small elements of space debris measuring 10 centimeters or less,” – he said.
The Russian core
The development of Russian scientists will make it possible to reduce the dimensions and technological complexity of the orbital laser, said Oleg Palashov, head of the department of the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who directly collaborates with foreign colleagues on a laser project for the ISS.
According to him, initially the idea of such an installation belonged to Japanese specialists who presented the project in 2015. They proposed to use three ready-made and now developed solutions: the ISS as a platform for the installation of a facility, a laser for the powerful accelerators of the next generation of Xcan and a telescope for studying the effect on the atmosphere of cosmic rays JEM-EUSO with a mirror 2.5 meters in diameter.
According to the initial design, the laser had to concentrate energy from 10 thousand optical fiber channels. “We suggested that colleagues reduce the number of channels from 10 thousand to 100 by using the so-called thin rods, which are developed in our institute, instead of fiber,” Palashov said.”This project is new in itself, only the possibility of creating such a laser and the potential for its placement on a space vehicle, and the interface how to control this kind of radiation is already the next question,” he added.
According to Palashov, for such a laser to work at full capacity, all the electricity produced by the ISS will be required. Therefore, experts, realizing that it is impossible to de-energize the station, are working on a project that will consume only five percent of the available energy. This will limit the duration of the shot to 10 seconds, and 200 seconds will go to recharge. The shooting range will be up to 10 kilometers. The equipment will weigh about 500 kilograms and occupy a volume of one or two cubic meters.
It is planned that when the laser is exposed to space debris will evaporate, turning into a cloud of metal particles, but their size will not pose a threat to the ISS skin and space equipment.