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Australians lead efforts to move space junk with lasers

Australians lead efforts to move space junk with lasers

Global telecommunications systems depend on satellites orbiting the Earth
Global telecommunications systems depend on satellites orbiting the Earth

Hundreds of thousands of objects are orbiting in high-velocity swarms around the Earth. Many of these, in the event of a collision, could ignite catastrophic accidents junking the world's orbital telecommunications networks.

Australian company Electro Optic Systems (EOS) is leading efforts to track this potentially killer debris 38,000km (24,000 miles) above our heads, and is at the forefront of a boom in Australian space research.

EOS chief executive Ben Greene says space agencies are worried that a trivial metal bolt could hit a satellite, breaking off more space junk missiles that would cripple other satellites.

He estimates there are 20,000 orbiting objects "bigger than a football", but hundreds of thousands the size of a nut or bigger, and that a massive space pile-up is likely within 20 years.

Satellites cost A$30m to A$3bn and take years to get into orbit, so the penalty for failing to protect them is high.

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November 3, 2014


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