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 (6)

  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

  4. Breakthrough Initiatives:

    RE:
    Apr 20, 2017 03:28 Peter Jaquiery Posted on: Breakthrough Initiatives

    Answer:
    This is a good idea and worthy of consideration. A challenge is the near to medium term technical capabilities to deliver and build the proper infrastructure on the moon. One could also place it on the dark-side to clear earth from its trajectory.

    - Pete Klupar, Breakthrough Starshot

  5. Dmitry Novoseltsev:

    Please consider supporting a small project to development a family of engines in the nearest future (https://cloud.mail.ru/public/4wW4/2cDs4Thtd) for Femto-class spacecrafts for pre-relativistic speeds using related technical solutions.
    Currently, work is underway to organize a profile startup D-Start: https://cloud.mail.ru/public/2ojj/4BGR9WWsJ.
    The proposed engines can be used for experimental development of certain elements of the Breakthrough Starshot technology, and in the "solar petard" engin version - also for experimental study of the movement of high-speed ultralight spacecrafts in the direction of the periphery of the Solar system and beyond.
    Additional information in the group https://www.facebook.com/groups/786495488481489.
    All interested parties are kindly asked to contact the author: danovoseltsev@mail.ru.
    Questions about specific experiments are open for discussion and planning.
    Assistance in attracting investment or grants is welcome.

  6. Breakthrough Initiatives :

    Dear Dr. Novoseltesev,

    Thank you for you bringing this to our attention. Our team and Advisory Committee pays close attention to developments in propulsion and other technologies relevant to Starshot. While we are not currently at a stage to support the particular work you are doing, I will follow your project with great interest. Our next request for proposals will be for the Starshot Interstellar Communications Challenge which focusses on developing novel communications systems for a 1g spacecraft 4.2 LY from Earth. If this topic is of interest to you, please keep feel free to summit a proposal when the RFP is announced – likely in Q3 2020. 



    Very respectfully, 

    Pete Klupar
    Chief Engineer, Breakthrough Initiatives

Please sign in to be able to add new comments.