To prevent unwanted collisions with satellites and space vehicles, NASA plans to shoot down space garbage using lasers. A new study at NASA shows that a 5-kilowatt laser aimed at space junk for a few hours a day could degrade the junk’s orbit enough to cause it to fall from the sky. That’s good news on a couple of fronts: First, a 5-kilowatt laser won’t be seen as a threat to the safety of other nations and second, the low-power light beams are less expensive to generate than weapons-grade beams.
NASA’s proposal to shoot down space garbage could remove as many as 10 objects a day. The same beams being used to nudge junk out of the sky could help to nudge satellites into new or optimal position, which would lead to a big cost savings since satellite thrusters would not have to be fueled for trajectory corrections.