There are figuratively tons of plans to eliminate the literally tons of space debris crowding up the Earth’s skies. Currently the estimate of space junk has hit half a million pieces so finding AND using a way to eliminate this debris (as well as utilizing a space travel method with perhaps reusable rockets – but that’s another story!)
Japan and their Riken Research Institute have suggested a new idea. They want to blast debris out of the sky with what amounts to a point & shoot method and propose using a fiber optic laser mounted onto the International Space Station. Of course this would only be for the test period. Ultimately the device would be housed in a polar orbit, flying freely. An polar orbit with an altitude of about 800 km would put it to use where the greatest concentration of debris is.
Here is how it would work. First the Extreme Universe Space Observatory’s infrared telescope would be adapted in order to track down debris that is orbiting Earth at high speeds. Next, using a fiber optic CAN laser (don’t suppose you have ever seen a particle accelerator?, They use the same kind!) – to shoot a laser beam at the unwanted debris and throw it off kilter, degrade the orbit of the trash item. Finally, the space junk would then fall from orbit and burn up upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, done. AND if you thought ‘well that’s great for the big pieces, this should work for pieces of space debris as small as one centimeter across.
There have been tons of ideas proposed and this, while better thought out, is similar to one year ago proposed by the Americans. Sadly, it was never put to use. I’m thinking everybody is worrying too much about how we’re going to get rid of the space debris and no one IS getting rid of the space debris. While I have been writing of this situation it has gone up several 100,000. (Likely more!) This proposal takes into consideration the one problem that was on several countries mind when talks first began – proprietary technology. No one country will get their hands on the technology; it is shot from a distance and then deorbits and is chewed up/burns up in the atmosphere. If there are further concerns the country that owns the satellite or debris can follow it by radar to see that either it has burned up in the atmosphere or is collected by one of their own.