Australian military defence contractor Electro Optic Systems has developed a laser capable of pushing space debris in orbit around so collisions can be avoided.
The company, under its EOS Space Systems arm based in Mt Stromlo near Canberra, will use lasers to track space junk and then another higher powered laser to avoid impacts by nudging the debris.
Professor Craig Smith, from EOS Space Systems, said researchers had developed a photon pressure laser that was ‘able to nudge space debris objects around, change their orbits.’
He said the next step would be to build ‘bigger and bigger lasers’ that were capable of pushing the debris out of orbit while avoiding breaking up the space junk into smaller pieces.
‘If they get smaller they get harder and harder to track, and so they start to become invisible — but also still lethal to satellites.’
Electro Optic Systems currently has over $580 million worth of orders for it’s R-400S-Mk2 vehicle mounted weapon station.
EOS says that it plans to make use of the Turbull Government’s recently announced Defence Export Strategy which provides a $3.8 billion credit fund for Australian defence contractors to develop military technology and then export it overseas.
Company CEO Dr Ben Greene said this credit fund would ‘allow EOS to forge ahead with the execution of all its current contracts and provides a stronger capital base for further expansion to meet growing demand.’
Collisions with space junk are a common occurrence with many satellites a year being hit.
Dr Greene, who also sits on the board of the Government funded Space Environment Research Centre, explained that in a worst case scenario a cascading series of collisions could result in near earth orbit being a no-go zone for satellites and space craft.
He also said Australia is the best place to develop this laser technology because ‘you need a decent-sized platform to work from and you need good weather.’