Cleaning Up Space Debris Becomes Urgent
In his web predictions, Old Moore said that the International Space Station would get hit by debris. This did indeed happen, and the astronauts had to scramble to safety. Now, an organisation is making moves to clean up the junk that orbits us…but damn we are a dirty race of creatures.
Yes it’s true! Old Moore predicted that the International Space Station would get a battering from space junk in his web predictions.
And now spacey-types have made plans to do something about it. An international team of scientists have put forward a blueprint for a purely space-based system to solve the growing problem of space debris. The proposal combines a super-wide field-of-view telescope which will be used to detect objects. This will be used in conjunction with a high-efficiency laser system. The CAN laser will be used to track space debris and remove it from orbit.
Not only did Old Moore predict that the Space Station would get a battering by space debris, he also predicted a space-junk clean up. He said in this article: “There will be big news stories about space junk, and efforts to clean it up and recycle it. It will be a united affair however, a union will be formed by space-faring countries to work together to clean it up. I see the name “junknik” being used. Thanks Junknik, our space needed a good cleansing.”
So back to what is ACTUALLY happening right now. Space debris, which is continuously accumulating as a result of human space activities, consists of artificial objects orbiting the earth. The number of objects nearly doubled from 2000 to 2014 and they have become a major obstacle to space development. The total mass of space debris is calculated to be about 3,000 tons. It consists of derelict satellites, rocket bodies and parts, and small fragments produced by collisions between debris. Some of these bits of junk are just centimetres across, but can still be dangerous due to the speeds at which they are travelling
Because the debris exists in different orbits, it is difficult to capture. The objects can collide with space infrastructure such as the International Space Station (ISS) and active satellites. As a result, developing technology to solve the problem has become a major challenge.
The EUSO telescope, which will be used to find debris, was originally designed for another purpose. It was planned to use it to detect ultraviolet light emitted from air showers produced by ultra-high energy cosmic rays entering the atmosphere at night. “We realized,” says Toshikazu Ebisuzaki, who led the effort, “that we could put it to another use. During twilight, thanks to EUSO’s wide field of view and powerful optics, we could adapt it to the new mission of detecting high-velocity debris in orbit near the ISS.”
So the telescope can be used to spot the debris. But the second device, the CAN laser, is the exciting bit. It is made of bundles of optical fibres that produce powerful laser pulses. Anything that gets in this thing’s way is toast.
The new method combining these two instruments will be capable of tracking down and deorbiting the most dangerous space debris. In layman’s terms, the laser will fry the junk enough so that it falls out of orbit and re-enters the earth’s atmosphere.
The group plans to deploy a small proof-of-concept experiment on the ISS, with a small, 20-centimeter version of the EUSO telescope and a laser with 100 fibres. “If that goes well,” says Ebisuzaki, “we plan to install a full-scale version on the ISS, incorporating a three-meter telescope and a laser with 10,000 fibres, giving it the ability to deorbit debris with a range of approximately 100 kilometres. Looking further to the future, we could create a free-flyer mission and put it into a polar orbit at an altitude near 800 kilometres, where the greatest concentration of debris is found.”
According to Ebisuzaki, “Our proposal is radically different from the more conventional approach that is ground based, and we believe it is a more manageable approach that will be accurate, fast, and cheap. We may finally have a way to stop the headache of rapidly growing space debris that endangers space activities. We believe that this dedicated system could remove most of the centimetre-sized debris within five years of operation.”
Old Moore you have done it again. For more predictions, click the link below to buy the current almanac.
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