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Detektion und Beseitigung von Weltraumschrott
Lasergestützte Ferndetektion (Stand-off Detektion)
Key Topics of the Institute
Laser-based detection and removal of space debris
DLR researchers at the Institute of Technical Physics are working on a laser-based optical tracking method to precisely determine the trajectory of space debris. Using this orbit data, satellites can perform specific avoidance manoeuvres. To determine the orbit of the pieces of debris, they are tracked by an optical telescope and simultaneously irradiated with laser pulses. A few milliseconds later, a weak reflection of the laser light returns from the objects. With the propagation time of the laser pulses and the position of the object in space, DLR researchers can determine the trajectory to within a few metres. In the long term, however, the debris must be removed from its orbit. To do this, the objects must be slowed by irradiation with a laser, moving them into a lower orbit and then quickly burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. For this purpose, pulsed laser systems and high-precision laser tracking methods are being developed at the Institute of Technical Physics.
Laser-based remote detection (standoff detection)
The accidental or intentional release of hazardous or explosive materials poses numerous threats to humans and the environment. Laser-based remote detection enables the early and safe detection and identification of suspicious unknown substances, so that timely, appropriate countermeasures can be taken to reduce threats to the population, rescue workers and the environment.
Long-range laser effectors
In the development of laser effectors at the Institute of Technical Physics, the focus is the optimisation of the beam quality of solid state lasers – in particular thin disk lasers – in continuous wave or pulsed operation, as well as their power scaling in the multi-kilowatt range. Depending on their power, these laser effectors have a wide range of applications in the transmission of energy by laser beam over long distances.
In the force-free environment of space, even compact pulsed lasers sources allow for position and attitude control of satellites or satellite constellations by laser ablative propulsion, generating thrust forces in the range of 0.1 micronewton up to one millinewton. Here, material is specifically ablated by laser irradiation from a propellant surface and evaporated, which produces a defined recoil. At the Institute of Technical Physics, research is being carried out into the development and qualification of suitable propulsion concepts as well as into laser-matter interaction.
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