Manish Angrish Matthew Badal-Badalian Edward Shen


Introduction: Space debris is an alarming problem that researchers around the globe have been working to solve. These space particles consist of meteorites that exist in space as well as fragmentation originating from satellites and spacecraft. The effect of these debris can be devastating upon collision with devices such as satellites, telecommunicators, etc. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration database reported that approximately 200 million objects were found orbiting close to the Earth. Currently, different techniques are under investigation to eliminate space debris.

Methods: Space debris varies in size, thus can only be fully removed if the various sizes are accounted for. We propose a model where efficiency and effectiveness can be optimized towards certain sizes of space debris. The laser ablation process involves concentrating multiple laser pulses on space debris to create plasma plumes which eject from the cavity created in the material at a substantial velocity, acting against the material’s original orbit and can be guided into Earth’s atmosphere where it will disintegrate or fall into the ocean. An electrodynamic net will also be used to attract and capture space debris. Once taken a hold of, this debris will be transported by the satellite towards the Earth's atmosphere. Here both the satellite and the debris will be disintegrated.

Results: To solve this problem, this study proposes a dual-debris model which combines a laser-guided and electrodynamic approach. The first process involves short-wavelength laser pulses that focus on debris greater than 10 cm in diameter, generating plasma plume ejections that decrease orbital velocity. The electrodynamic approach will attract and dispose materials less than 10 cm in diameter with an electrically charged net dispatched by a satellite, which is then guided towards the Earth.

Discussion: Based on the results of the studies analyzed, laser ablation is an effective method of removing large space debris while the electrodynamic net serves as a cost-efficient method of eliminating small debris. Both methods allow targeted debris to approach and disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere or fall into the ocean. Results from previous studies were largely based on simulations, and further testing should be done.

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