Launch | Range safety and space debris

Space debris is a serious challenge, both for detection and mitigation.

The Breakthrough Starshot system is relatively well-suited for detection. Several laboratory measurements and research papers on this topic have been published over the last few years. A list could be accessed of all orbiting objects bigger than 10cm, which would be used to plan launch campaigns.

However, objects as small as a few centimeters could cause problems. For these objects it is also harder to predict their ephemeris (orbital position at specific times). It would therefore be necessary to develop a catalog of such small objects and ensure that they were not illuminated in such a way as to scatter illumination onto any active vehicle.

Standard approaches to range safety would also be observed: no fly zones and the active failsafe interlock perimeter detection system. The beamer would be shut down if any object were detected approaching the no fly zone.

Research:

Comments (3)

  1. michael.million@sky.com:

    With a phased array it would be possible to fire individual lasers to slow down orbital debris and de-orbit them for financial gain, the lasers could also be used to power other satellites again for financial gain by illuminating their solar panels. It will require a precision tracking system to track these small projectiles though and the laser system (fewer active lasers) should be powerful enough to deflect them as they re-radiate heat and volitiles from there surfaces.

  2. Breakthrough Initiatives :

    Jun 03, 2016 14:56 michael.million@sky.com Posted on: Centauri Dreams
    "With a phased array it would be possible to fire individual lasers to slow down orbital debris and de-orbit them for financial gain, the lasers could also be used to power other satellites again for financial gain by illuminating their solar panels. It will require a precision tracking system to track these small projectiles though and the laser system (fewer active lasers) should be powerful enough to deflect them as they re-radiate heat and volitiles from there surfaces."

    Excellent suggestion for auxiliary uses of the beamer.
    See also: For space, we will use data from the tracking of space debris and human objects.
    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/news/orbital_debris.html
    Note that this tracking is improving.

    – Prof. Sasha Buchman, Breakthrough Initiatives

  3. Peter Jaquiery:

    Placing the launching array on the moon provides a number of advantages (and obvious disadvantages):

    1/ No atmosphere to mess with beam pointing and object tracking
    2/ on the far side of the moon there is likely less concern over high power collimated energy sources
    3/ there's lots of free sunlight
    4/ sidereal rate is much low so launch windows can be longer (although less often)
    5/ Radiative cooling is king (but convection really sucks)
    6/ (almost) no space debris

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