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Laser broom sweeps clean

17 Jun 2002

US space agency NASA is to begin trials of a laser that will sweep up space debris that could be a threat to the International Space Station (ISS).

Debris measuring between 1 and 10 cm in diameter could puncture a hole in the ISS. Anything smaller is unlikely to do much damage and large-sized pieces of junk can be tracked and avoided. However, fragments from satellites about the size of tennis ball are not easy to monitor.

Trials of the ground-based system, which will be able to locate and destroy the fragments, will start in 2003 when dummy targets will be launched from a space shuttle. Initially, the laser will not be high-powered enough to affect the debris because its use could contravene treaties banning laser weapons.

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