Clearing the Cosmos: Japanese Startup’s Groundbreaking Laser Solution for Space Debris

By: | January 21st, 2024

Image by EOS

The Growing Threat of Space Junk

The ever-increasing number of satellites and spacecraft has created a pressing problem: space junk. These defunct satellites, rocket parts, and other fragments pose a threat to operational spacecraft, potentially causing collisions and cascading damage.

Even tiny debris, measuring just a few millimeters, poses a threat when it collides with operational satellites and spacecraft. Consequently, the imperative to monitor and eliminate smaller space debris becomes more pronounced as space activities continue to expand globally.

EX-Fusion’s Innovative Approach

Osaka-based startup EX-Fusion is in the process of creating a terrestrial laser system designed to eliminate space debris from Earth. This inventive strategy, if proven effective, holds significant potential for addressing the growing congestion of space surrounding our planet.

EX-Fusion plans to leverage its laser technology originally developed for fusion power pursuits. In October, the startup formalized a memorandum of understanding with EOS Space Systems, an Australian contractor specializing in space debris detection technology. EX-Fusion intends to deploy a potent laser system at the EOS Space Observatory near Canberra.

The initial phase focuses on implementing laser technology to track space debris measuring less than 4 inches (10 cm), a size traditionally challenging to address from the ground using lasers. In the subsequent phase, EX-Fusion and EOS Space plan to utilize surface-fired laser beams for the removal of space debris.

Fusion-Powered Laser Technology

EX-Fusion, utilizing diode-pumped solid-state (DPSS) lasers, plans to slow down space debris by firing lasers in the opposite direction of its travel. This innovative method aims to bring debris into Earth’s atmosphere for safe disposal. Unlike weapon-grade lasers, DPSS lasers apply pulsed force, acting as a brake. This approach addresses technical challenges in controlling lasers, shared with nuclear fusion technology.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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