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News Picks : Australia wants to use lasers to bring down space debris

By: Physics Today
11 March 2014
The Guardian: Space is full of debris, ranging from small screws and other rocket parts to dead satellites. Current estimates put the number of debris pieces in orbit around Earth at about 300 000 and growing. As the amount of debris increases, the likelihood of collisions with satellites or spacecraft also increases, and many teams are now working on ways to remove the debris. Australia is setting up a group called the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC)—a partnership of universities, private companies, and government agencies—to study the possibility of using ground-based lasers for the task. The country currently contracts with NASA to use an IR laser at Mount Stromlo Observatory to track and map orbital debris. The CRC will work to develop higher-intensity lasers that can slow down pieces of debris so they fall into the atmosphere and burn up. Matthew Colless of Australian National University, one of the CRC members, believes the technology will be ready within 10 years and envisions a globally distributed network of the lasers.


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