EX-Fusion , a Japanese startup, intends to create a ground-based laser system aimed at removing space debris from Earth . This innovative approach could represent a valuable way to address this growing problem in Earth orbit.
Space debris and the problems it causes
Space debris, which includes obsolete objects such as old satellites and spent rocket stages, poses collision risks to operational spacecraft and the International Space Station. For this reason, the startup is looking to use its laser technology, originally developed for fusion energy, to track and remove smaller space debris.
In collaboration with EOS Space Systems, an Australian contractor specializing in space debris detection, EX-Fusion plans to install a powerful laser system at the EOS Space Observatory near Canberra. This approach differs from other projects that seek to use satellites or lasers mounted on them to address the problem of space debris from space .
It is important to mention that the initial phase of this project involves the implementation of laser technology to track space debris that has dimensions less than 10 cm. This size of debris has historically represented a challenge to be targeted from Earth using lasers. In the second stage, EX-Fusion and EOS Space plan to use laser beams fired from the surface to remove space debris.
How will a laser be able to eliminate space debris?
The method consists of firing the laser intermittently in the opposite direction to the movement of the debris to reduce its orbital speed. This decrease in speed should theoretically cause the debris to enter the Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up.
EOS Space, known for supplying laser weapon systems to destroy drones, clarifies that lasers designed to eliminate space debris are not identical to weapons-grade lasers, as they use diode-pumped solid-state (DPSS) lasers. These apply force to moving debris, acting as a brake to stop it.
Although the power of these lasers to remove space debris is significantly less than that required for nuclear fusion, both face similar technical challenges, such as control using special mirrors, explained EX-Fusion CEO Kazuki Matsuo.
It should be noted that the EX-Fusion project that seeks to eliminate space debris from Earth is in the development phase and faces challenges linked to precision and power. Despite this, it has the advantage of enabling simple improvements and maintenance on our planet. This technology could be complementary to debris removal services offered by companies like Astroscale.
Don’t miss any of our posts and follow us on social media!