China space lasers proposal offers futuristic way to take out space debris

Various concepts for cleaning up space junk have been created, but a new one from Chinese scientists is by far the most futuristic. In a recently published paper, the team details a space-based laser station concept that uses lasers to eliminate space junk. The proposal was introduced at a time when space junk has been highlighted as a serious concern, potentially impacting future space missions.

Space junk involves a variety of man-made equipment left orbiting after its lifespan ends. While this isn't much of a concern for people on Earth, as the junk burns up as it eventually falls back toward the planet, it is a big problem for space missions.

Space agencies and companies have been calling for effective cleaning solutions to clean up this junk before it causes a catastrophe. In a newly published paper titled "Impacts of orbital elements of space-based laser station on small scale space debris removal," the team of scientists detail a simulation that indicates such methods could be effective.

The lasers wouldn't entirely eliminate the space junk, but instead break it down into smaller pieces that pose less of a risk to future space missions. Such a paper is no doubt fueling concerns among some in the US government that China is increasingly working on space weapons that could be used to target US satellites.

Concerns about such weapons were raised by the US military last month by US Strategic Command head Gen. John Hyten, who also accused Russia of building such devices. Chinese surveillance concerns have been a hot topic in Congress again, a reality recently underscored by a bill proposal seeking to ban US government entities from contracting with firms that use Huawei and/or ZTE hardware.

SOURCE: Science Direct