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14 September 1998 Orion: challenges and benefits
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Proceedings Volume 3343, High-Power Laser Ablation; (1998)
Event: High-Power Laser Ablation, 1998, Santa Fe, NM, United States
ORION is a practical proposal for removing the 150,000 pieces of manmade space debris in the 1- to 10-cm size range now orbiting the Earth below 1500 km altitude which threaten large space systems in low Earth orbit. It is based on using the thrust produced by pulsed laser ablation of a thin layer on the debris surface to drop its perigee sufficiently for reentry and burnup. Applied when the object is rising between about 45 and 15-degree zenith angle, the necessary (Delta) v is of order 100 m/s. A laser of 30 kW average power at 10-ns pulsewidth and a 6-m mirror with adaptive optics can clear near-Earth space of these debris in 2 years of operation. Technical challenges faced by such a system include: heavy demands on detection, tracking and adaptive optics arising from the tiny optical cross section of the smallest debris and the required pointing accuracy and steering rate, stimulated Raman conversion and nonlinear refraction of the laser beam in the atmosphere, uncertainty of momentum coupling coefficients (Cm) for some materials, and high-average-power laser development. It is crucial that the system we propose be developed under international aegis, to insure that its installation does not increase international tensions. It should be viewed as a single-pay lifetime insurance policy for the World's space assets whose premium is less than 1% of the protected asset value, an excellent rate for such contracts.
© (1998) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Claude R. Phipps "Orion: challenges and benefits", Proc. SPIE 3343, High-Power Laser Ablation, (14 September 1998);

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