China Wants to Blow Up Its Space Junk With Giant Lasers
Though we're skilled at trashing our own planet, data over the last several decades reminds us that we've grown pretty adept at trashing space, too.
Now China claims to also be working on finding a wholly badass solution. In "Impacts of orbital elements of space-based laser station on small-scale space debris removal," researchers at the Air Force Engineering University in China suggest that giant lasers are both the most efficient and practical way to wholly obliterate the particles floating around in zero gravity.
"This paper investigated the impacts of orbital elements of space-based laser station on small-scale space debris removal by numerical simulation," the researchers wrote in the abstract of a paper published in Optik - International Journal for Light and Electron Optics.
"The velocity variation of the space debris ablating by the space-based laser station was analyzed, and the orbit maneuver of the space debris irradiated by laser station was modeled and studied. The variations of orbital parameters of the space debris orbit respectively without and with irradiation of high-power pulsed laser were simulated and analyzed, and the impacts of the inclination and right ascension of ascending node (RAAN) of the space-based laser station on debris removal were analyzed and discussed."
If the premise of a giant weapon in space that's operated by one of the world's great superpowers scares you a little, you're clearly caught up on your James Bond. But in a move of intergalactic vertical integration, China's proposal to clean up space makes little mention of the fact that much of that trash can be traced back to China's space program, it's currently falling satellite, and less than optimal disposal of past projects in the first place.
Experts are still figuring out the crashing coordinates forChina's Tiangong-1 Space Station, the 8.5 metric ton non-operational space station that first began operation in 2011. It's about to experience severe fragmentation, and while it should plummet to Earth, its destruction will only add to the near 14,000 pieces of debris currently orbiting our planet.
China also obliterated its Fenguin-1C weather satellite in January 2007 during a weapons test, creating around 3,300 fragments of debris in what has gone on record as one of the worst cases of space pollution.