Russia is still making its mark in space and it is doing so by taking an initiative to tackle one of the growing problems that are orbiting the Earth.
What Did The Russian Space Agency Announce?
On June 11, researchers at the Scientific and Industrial Corporation "Precision Instrument Systems" (NPK SPP), a group within the Russian space agency Roscosmos, announced the creation of a laser cannon that will shoot down space debris that is currently orbiting the Earth. The laser cannon is going to be roughly 3 meters long.
"The scientists intend to use the massive soon-to-be-built telescope at the Altay Optical-Laser Center and convert it into a laser cannon," a source from Roscosmos told Sputnik News. "The device is expected to be powered by a solid-state generator, though the project team has yet to choose which model to use."
Sputnik News claimed that a report was sent to the Russian Academy of Sciences about the laser cannon. However, according to ResearchGate's system on June 12, it doesn't appear to have been published yet.
The Technology Behind The Space Laser
Scientists at the Research-and-Production Corporation Precision Systems, which is also part of Roscosmos, are already constructing the laser cannon. It will begin in production as a telescope to scout space for junk, which will then be turned into the laser to remove the junk if the project is approved.
The plan calls for the laser cannon to have a "transmit/receive adaptive optic detection system" within it. The cannon will follow a process known as "laser ablation" to shoot down space debris. Energy from the cannon will heat space junk with a beam, which will then vaporize it. As a result, the space junk will evaporate.
The Problem With Debris In Space
As more countries travel into space, debris will continue to be a problem. There are currently over 500,000 pieces of debris surrounding the Earth, with roughly 20,000 pieces bigger than a softball. The amount of debris continues to get worse. Unless action is taken to combat this problem, it could inhibit travel to and from space. It is a growing global problem.
Russia isn't the first country to propose using a laser to clean up the debris. In January 2018, China revealed that it will embark on the same experiment in the future.
In 2016, the Canadian Space Agency revealed that it will invest in a system to scan the International Space Station for damage from debris.