Space lasers


34 Responses to “Space lasers”

  1. dculberson says:

    Oh man, that’s cool!  But wouldn’t it be both?  A space junk de-orbiter AND a massive death ray?  Why play down that angle when it’s a sure fire way to get more funding?

    Also get some private funding by marketing it as a laser logo engraver for moon based advertisements.  Moonvertisements, if you will.

  2. PhosPhorious says:

    “How do you build a laser big enough to knock space junk out of orbit without convincing half the world that what you’ve really built is a giant death ray?”

    Fuck ‘em.  What are they going to do?  We’ve got a giant death ray!

  3. awjt says:

    Real Genius.

  4. BarBarSeven says:

    “There. You see, Lord Vader? She can be reasonable. Continue with the operation. You may fire when ready.”

  5. MarcVader says:

    I for one think that a ring around the old Earth would look mighty pretty. Put more debris up there – now!

  6. Reed 1GM says:

    In 50 years or so ,  won’t  we have a moon base or orbiting shipyard, and  wish there was a scrapyard nearby?

    Also  what happens when  you  shoot  a cloud?

  7. Rod Fountain says:

    ‘…do you expect me to talk?’

    ‘No Mr.Bond.  I expect you to die’.

  8. In the 80s there was some hubbub around the fact that the Soviets had built some kind of space thing near a large hydroelectric facility near Dushanbe.  Some people thought it was an anti-satellite laser weapon.  The Soviets said it was a tracking facility for space junk.  If Americans were to build such a facility today, would it spook other space-going nations?

  9. AwesomeRobot says:

    That’s exactly what you would say if you were trying to build an enormous laser death ray.

  10. Lobster says:

    So… they hiring?

  11. PhosPhorious says:

    Well, to be honest, the ray only has evil applications. . .

  12. Finnagain says:

    I can’t wait for this technology to filter down to end users! 

  13. huskerdont says:

    But wouldn’t breaking it up into smaller pieces  be beneficial as these smaller pieces would be more likely to burn up on re-entry?

    • MarcVader says:

      The smaller the pieces are the harder its is to track them. Two fairly recent incidents involving satellites have increased the amount of pieces in orbit immensely. One of them was the Chinese military shooting one of their satellites with a missile. This single event created
      “2,300 pieces  of trackable debris (approximately golf ball size or larger), over 35,000 pieces 1 cm (0.4 in) or larger, and 1 million pieces 1 mm (0.04 in) or larger. “
      That’s a lot to keep track of and have your satellites try to dodge if they are in the path of one of those. And as you can see from these numbers, even more that you cannot track. And this debris will be in orbit for decades.

      At the speeds necessary to keep an object in low earth orbit all but the most massive chunks of spacecraft burn up once they re-enter the atmosphere. So that’s really not an argument for making more pieces out of the ones already in orbit.

      The quote is from:

  14. ahwoo says:

    Sign me up for live Missile Command….Pew-Pew-Pew !

  15. millie fink says:

    Space “trash”? 

    No, no, no–

  16. huskerdont says:

    Thank you for the edumacation, Mr. Vader. I knew there had to be a perfectly good reason but had never read anything on it. Still, it seems even from that link that if objects are in a low orbit that is about to decay, perhaps it could be beneficial to attempt to destroy them. For instance, the recent satellite that everyone was so worried about since it was coming down anyway.

    • AbleBakerCharlie says:

      The dangers from reentering birds is so stunningly low, periodic media attention aside, that whether you prefer them to enter in a unitary fashion or a cloud of itty bits is essentially aesthetic- except for the old Soviet oceanic surveillance satellites with nuclear reactors, which one would most definitely prefer to come down in one piece. (Don’t worry- all the remaining ones have been disposed of by going up, not down. They aren’t due to reenter for 50,000 years.) The planet is 70% ocean, and the remainder is overwhelmingly farms, forests, ice, and desert, and the offending object in question is usually the size of a small car, and by the end, is traveling at a speed more akin to falling than bullets.  Defunct satellites are exclusively a danger to other satellites, and in that case, we prefer them large and intact, instead of chipping off other bits and making self-replicating swarms of hypersonic hail.

      Also, it’s rather easy to disable a satellite with a laser (indeed, there is cause to believe that the US and the Russians have done so, at least temporarily, before, including a laser blinding of a shuttle,) but blowing one to pieces would likely depend on rupturing something that had explosive desires all its own- or hitting it with something, like, say, an uprated SM-3 missile. The US claims that our most recent satellite shootdown was about eliminating the risks from residual hydrazine or reducing fall damage were sillye at best- it was a weapons demonstration, pure and simple. Damn good one, I should add.

  17. Ryan Lenethen says:

    Space Debris is our friend. Soon as some nasty alien type decides to try and invade us, BAM! Half a satellite in the ear! Now if we combine that with ground based death rays, so much the better!

  18. jimkirk says:

    Don’t aim it at airplanes!!!

  19. Ahem, aren’t they just called spasers?  And don’t they just use them on cats and dogs?  I’ll take my answer off-air, thanks!

  20. Wildeye says:

    Even the Pentagon knows the answer to trash is to go Green. 

    Orbiting Robot Will Gather Space Junk and Turn It Into New Satellites

  21.  won’t the laser heat up one side of the space junk and cause it to evaporate,  evaporating stuff on the earth-facing side will jet out a little and add an outward push to the satellite.  So instead of one big piece of space junk you’ve been tracking in the same orbit for years you’ve got a bunch of smaller space junk that’s harder to track and has been pushed into different orbits. How the hell is this useful?

    But ground laser that can destroy stuff in orbit? Massively cool. It’s just like Master of Orion.

    • AbleBakerCharlie says:

      You have the mechanism right, but not the effect. The ablation effect on the Earth-facing side of the particle produces an impulse on the order of sub-millimeters per second- not nearly enough to blast it into pieces. What said outward thrust does is change the eccentricity of the orbit,  and thus lowers the perigee or lowest point- and if said perigee drops below 200km, then even the lowest drag object will reenter in a couple days.  It’s not so much about shooting things down with lasers as it is about herding them- every time one of the thousands of bits of trackable space junk peeks over the horizon, you squirt a little laser at it, and then at the next, and you forget about it until it comes over the horizon again, and the all the while the average time to reentry goes down, and thus the statistical likelihood it will either get blasted into chunks too small to track anymore, or that it will run into something you care about. If you can ensure that some upper stage fragments reenters in six months instead of fifteen years, you’ve made progress.

  22. t3kna2007 says:

    Chief Soh-Cah-Toa wonders why they’re vaporizing a low-flying eagle.

  23. pjcamp says:

    “How do you build a laser big enough to knock space junk out of orbit without convincing half the world that what you’ve really built is a giant death ray?”

    Well, first off, be sure not to build it inside a dormant volcano. That’s one. And don’t surround it with an army of Ninja Women in Hot Pants with double entendre names. And don’t shave your head, and no twirly eagg-shaped chairs. And no cats! Absolutely positively no goddamn cats!

  24. Man with the golden laser gun

  25. Cowicide says:

    If this makes more shooting stars in the sky then I’m all for it.

  26. Disassembly says:

    Can’t believe nobody’s posted this yet.

  27. professor says:

    Hey diddle diddle,
    The cat and the fiddle,
    The cow jumped over the… Woohoo! Laser-cut Rib-eye!

  28. Mike MacKenzie says:

    “Politics. How do you build a laser big enough to knock space junk out of orbit without convincing half the world that what you’ve really built is a giant death ray? That’s something the authors hope to avoid through international cooperation.”

    Something like CERN, but laser based would offer lots of opportunity for research, but would have practical uses.   Next, figure out how to get people to pay for it in a global recession.

  29. David Johnsen says:

    This problem was solved by the screenwriters of Quark in the 1970′s.

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