The International Space Station (ISS) can receive a laser for “shooting” space debris.
Speaking at a meeting of the Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences on Space, Boris Shustov, Chairman of the Expert Group of the Council on Space Threats, RAS Corresponding Member, told about the development of such an installation by an international group of scientists.
At present, evasion maneuvers are being carried out to protect the ISS from space debris produced with the help of the engines of the station itself or docked cargo ships. Such operations 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 collision with small, several centimeters, but the most numerous and therefore the most dangerous debris of space debris, “Shustov said.
President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Sergeev noted that the issue of using lasers for cleaning the near-earth orbit from space debris has been discussed for a long time.
“Recently, it has been very popular to discuss the use of lasers operating from space to deflect the elements of debris into the orbits of their reduction to the atmosphere.” Now in Japan and Europe the projects of creating such installations are being seriously discussed. “The parameters of lasers, which are now available, both in average power and by peak power, are sufficient to solve the problem of changing the orbit of small elements of space debris measuring 10 centimeters or less, “the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences 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 cooperates with foreign colleagues in the ISS laser project.
According to him, initially the idea of such an installation belonged to specialists from Japan, who presented their project in 2015. They proposed using three ready-made and currently developed solutions: the ISS as a platform for the installation, a laser for the next-generation powerful accelerators Xcan and a telescope for studying the effect on the atmosphere of cosmic rays JEM-EUSO with a mirror 2.5 meters in diameter.
In the original project, the laser had to concentrate energy from 10,000 optical fiber channels. “We proposed to colleagues to 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 during the speech at the Council.
“This project is new in itself, only the possibility of creating such a laser and the potential for its placement on a spacecraft, and the interface how to manage this kind of radiation is the next question,” he added.
According to Palashov, to work the projected laser at full capacity will require the same amount of electricity as the entire ISS produces. Realizing that it is impossible to de-energize the station, experts are working on a project that will consume only 5% of the available energy. This will limit the possibility of a shot duration of 10 seconds and 200 seconds will go to recharge. The shooting range will be up to 10 kilometers. At the same time, the weight of the equipment will be about 500 kilograms, and the volume – 1-2 cubic meters.
It is planned that as a result of the laser action on space debris, it will evaporate, turning into a cloud of metallic particles, but their size will not pose a threat to the ISS skin and spacecraft equipment.