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Project ORION: Orbital Debris Removal Using Ground-Based Sensors and LasersAbout 100,000 pieces of 1 to 10-cm debris in low-Earth orbit are too small to track reliably but large enough to cripple or destroy spacecraft. The ORION team studied the feasibility of removing the debris with ground-based laser impulses. Photoablation experiments were surveyed and applied to likely debris materials. Laser intensities needed for debris orbit modification call for pulses on the order of lOkJ or continuous wave lasers on the order of 1 MW. Adaptive optics are necessary to correct for atmospheric turbulence. Wavelength and pulse duration windows were found that limit beam degradation due to nonlinear atmospheric processes. Debris can be detected and located to within about 10 microrads with existing radar and passive optical technology. Fine targeting would be accomplished with laser illumination, which might also be used for detection. Bistatic detection with communications satellites may also be possible. We recommend that existing technology be used to demonstrate the concept at a loss of about $20 million. We calculate that an installation to clear altitudes up to 800 km of 1 to 10-cm debris over 2 years of operation would cost about $80 million. Clearing altitudes up to 1,500 km would take about 3 years and cost about $160 million.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Marshall Space Flight Center
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Campbell, J. W.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
October 1, 1996
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
NAS 1.15:108522
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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