World-first laser to shunt deadly space junk out of orbit

A world-first laser will shunt potentially deadly space junk out of orbit Amnesty ends for gel blasters in South Australia Identity of alleged killer revealed Australian scientists are hailing a world-first laser designed to shunt potentially deadly space junk out of orbit, fired from a Canberra hilltop. The laser, which will be fired from the Mt Stromlo Observatory in Canberra, has been seven years in the making. It was produced as part of a federally-funded research centre involving EOS, the Australian National University, weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the Japanese Institute of Communications and Technology. One is a bright orange beam clearly visible to the naked eye, which penetrates the atmosphere pinpointing the debris. A second, more powerful but invisible laser is fired at the junk, moving it out of orbit and preventing it from colliding with critical infrastructure like satellites. Dr Greene said space resources are always under threat from space debris because of space pollution. It has been estimated there’s about 130 million pieces of debris in space which are either bits of spacecraft, nuts, bolts, dead satellites, or even urns containing the ashes of people fired into space. “The risk from space debris is substantial and increasing. Australia is one of the most space dependent countries in the world,” Dr Greene told 9News. “We depend on space for our banking, our navigation, a whole range of crop management, agriculture, logistics, movement of groceries and supplies across the country.” “It’s a unique type of laser which we’ve just grown to right scale and power so we can map the atmosphere then use the maps which are made hundreds of times a second to correct laser beams on the ground so they propagate into space perfectly. That will allow us to apply very high-power laser beams to move space debris in space and make space navigation much safe,” Dr Greene said. It’s also hoped this technology could have commercial aspects by communicating with deep space probes. Experts say it does open the potential for one day something to be destroyed in space, by a laser fired from earth. The team at Mt Stromlo has been tracking space junk for decades, this is the first time it will have the ability to move space debris out of the way of satellites. “Satellites are increasingly central to our everyday life, and with huge money tied up in them, there is a massive economic opportunity in solving the problem,” she said. “This technology also has important communications applications, including the potential to enhance communications in NASA’s Moon to Mars mission, complementing the Government’s $150 million Moon to Mars initiative.”

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