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Space Debris Nudging - a Very First Step in Laser Propulsion

Scharring, Stefan and Kästel, Jürgen and Dreyer, Heiko and Wagner, Gerd and Riede, Wolfgang and Speiser, Jochen (2022) Space Debris Nudging - a Very First Step in Laser Propulsion. 2nd International Forum on Physics and Astronomy, 2022-11-14 - 2022-11-15, Valencia, Spanien.

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The increasing amount of space debris in the low Earth orbit (LEO) constitutes a significant threat for satellite operations like Earth observation, communications, and scientific missions. The vast majority of space debris objects consists of fragments from explosions and collisions, where already an object of only 10 cm in size has the potential to entirely destroy a whole satellite. Moreover, such a collision implies the risk of a cascading effect by generating subsequent collisions with the newly generated fragments contributing to an exponential growth of the space debris population, known as the Kessler effect, that bears the potential to transform certain orbital regions unusable for space operations for several decades. Prior to a necessary large-scale removal of space debris as a long-term solution, object nudging by ground-based high-power laser stations might constitute a very first step in both space debris remediation – as well as in the technological evolution of laser propulsion: Already a debris velocity change by Delta-v = 1 mm per second, taking place 24 hours before a predicted time of closest approach (TCA) in LEO would yield a displacement of Delta-x = 259 meters of the debris on its orbital trajectory 24 hours later at TCA. This might be sufficient for collision avoidance (CA) if orbital data is known precisely enough. Exploring the opportunity of laser-based collision avoidance in space, we report about main findings from our LARAMOTIONS study, funded by the European Space Agency, and our internally funded PARAMOTIONS study on the fundamentals of applying momentum remotely to space debris objects using high-power lasers from ground. The expected outcome in terms of imparted Delta-v is evaluated in numerical analyses for a LEO space debris population of 9101 objects using adaptive optics and high-precision laser tracking and ranging. As propulsion mechanisms, we compare pure photon pressure with recoil from laser-induced surface ablation. The latter is modeled assuming coherent coupling of 5000 laser emitters with 20 J pulse energy each, whereas for the former analysis on photon pressure 2 combined 20 kW commercially (soon-to-be) available continuous wave (CW) high power lasers are assumed. The obtained results on feasibility are carefully considered against technological constraints as well as issues of operational safety.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/190390/
Document Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Title:Space Debris Nudging - a Very First Step in Laser Propulsion
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthor's ORCID iDORCID Put Code
Date:15 November 2022
Refereed publication:No
Open Access:No
Gold Open Access:No
In ISI Web of Science:No
Keywords:space debris, collision avoidance, high power lasers, photon pressure, laser ablation, high energy laser
Event Title:2nd International Forum on Physics and Astronomy
Event Location:Valencia, Spanien
Event Type:international Conference
Event Start Date:14 November 2022
Event End Date:15 November 2022
Organizer:Continuum Forums
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Space
HGF - Program Themes:Space System Technology
DLR - Research area:Raumfahrt
DLR - Program:R SY - Space System Technology
DLR - Research theme (Project):R - Project Use of Lasers for the Detection of Space Debris
Location: Stuttgart
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Technical Physics > Active Optical Systems
Institute of Technical Physics > Solid State Lasers and Nonlinear Optics
Deposited By: Scharring, Stefan
Deposited On:29 Nov 2022 09:21
Last Modified:24 Apr 2024 20:51

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