“Tractor Beam” Technology Developed for Space Debris

A tractor beam designed by a Japanese Space-flight engineer by the name of John Sinko coming from Nagoya University may be the answer to the ever growing problem of space debris in orbit around Earth.  The growing problem of derelict satellites, used up rockets, and other pieces of spacecraft in the orbit around Earth is growing as space travel and communication through satellites becomes more common.  And the system is simpler than originally thought possible for a “tractor beam” using lasers.

The laser system would use a low power laser, firing it into a mass of solid fuel, and shooting out a jet of material causing thrust as the material was ejected in the opposite direction and burned up harmlessly off the other side.  The on-board motors, according to Sinko, could be targeted remotely.  Though the system was originally a means of a laser based spaceflight engine ideal for working in zero gravity, such a system could be utilized to attach “engines” on other ships comprised solely of the combustible material and canisters which would act as “rockets.”  The canisters could then be pushed using the laser system, causing them to be pushed out into space or to fall into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.  And yet this is not even the most startlingly brilliant aspect of the Laser Tractor Beam system.

In addition to using lasers to push the debris away from the craft emitting the laser, it could also be pulled into the craft if a system of mirrors were positioned on the other side of the debris and the laser was fired out and bounced onff the mirror toward the offending debris.  As the laser was pushed off the other side, the debris could then be pulled into the craft and either recycled or collected and studied.  It would also be an excellent system for retrieving important lost instruments or capsules.

And the lasers need not necessarily be fired from Earth.  A ground operated laser, fired into a system of mirrors could logically do the same work as one fired from space.  As the powerful laser bounced off far lighter deployed reflective materials carefully calibrated remotely, the system could in fact theoretically fire magnetic capsules to latch onto the debris and then propel it back to Earth with a relatively easy to carry out system.  Unfortunately, the difficulty of this system is that it will require some precision to actually attach the fuel canisters to the debris and calibrate the mirrors.  But seeing that this system is newly developed, it may in time turn out to be far easier with a few more developments in technology and the growing problem of orbital space debris may soon be solved long before it becomes a serious threat to global communication.  In order to prove the effectiveness of his system at removing larger pieces of debris, Sinko has announced that he will be developing a way to use his system to remove a large 10 kilogram piece of orbital junk that is currently threatening satellites as it floats through space.