According to simulations, there are 750,000 particles in orbit that are bigger than one centimetre. Currently, approximately 18,000 pieces of space debris with a size of around 10 centimetres have been catalogued. Space debris refers to all man-made objects located in space and which no longer fulfil any function. Typical examples are used rocket upper stages and shut-down satellites. In terms of numbers, the majority consists of pieces of debris generated when space vehicles break up, because, for example, fuel residues have exploded or collisions between various pieces of space debris have taken place in orbit.
TU Braunschweig .
The Institute of Technical Physics at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) develops and builds lasers. In the future, lasers will be capable of detecting items of space debris and accelerating the decay of their orbits.
DLR (CC-BY 3.0).
In the laser laboratory at the DLR Institute of Technical Physics, researchers are experimenting with high-power lasers that operate in the kilowatt range.
Laser tracking of space debris.
Space debris (artist’s impression): 20,000 pieces larger than 10 centimetres orbiting the Earth.
Simulated impact of a 12 mm bullet on to an 8 cm aluminium plate at a velocity of 7 kilometres per second.