Plan B: Blast 'Em With Lasers

By Sam Gibbs on at

Space junk is turning into a real nuisance. But if you simply can't recycle them, what's next? How about firing a massive laser at them?

We're not talking about trying to vaporise them here -- that'd just be silly. But a well timed, accurate shot from a powerful enough laser should be able to knock them right out of orbit and into the Pacific Ocean. Smaller satellites would largely burn-up on re-entry, but bigger ones like the recent ROSAT, would make a nice, safe splash-down without risking them landing in someone's back garden.

NASA's already proposed a plan to use an ion cannon to disrupt smaller satellites, but the bigger hunks-of-junk need something a whole lot more powerful. Of course countries with military satellites in orbit are going to get a bit tetchy should this make it from paper to reality, but clearing out the crap from low orbit is going to become an increasingly pressing global issue. I'd be really upset if some old-and-busted piece of space junk took out my FreeSat HD, and unless someone's got a better idea, frickin' lasers it is. [Cornell University Library via Wired via DVICE]