Archive for the ‘Lasers’ Category

Do you ever wonder if (in Dr. Strangelove’s voice) “Computers are writing internet articles”?

I do, especially when I read We’re pigs in space, but Aussie technology set to clean up orbiting mess.

Example 1: “The EOS system involves special cameras peering into the night sky to locate the debris.”  Special cameras, eh?

Example 2: “Work is also under way to develop a much more powerful laser capable of punching debris out of orbit so it no longer poses a threat.”  Punch it out, eh?

An article on the same topic is Australian laser system to track space junk which reeks of massive oversell.

Question 1: how many lasers are needed? It will be w-a-y more than just one.

Question 2: this is a laser that works through cloud cover?  Wow!

Question 3: how this will be received by those satellites with sensors that don’t like getting lased?

Finally: you gotta love the line that this “will stop chunks of space debris colliding with spacecraft and satellites.”  Used to warn, perhaps. Stop, no.

The risk of such writing is that people may believe it.  “Space debris?  No problems, mate.  The Aussies have it all put to bed.”

Help!  Stop me before I critique again!


New Scientist reports that astronomers are concerned about restrictions on the use of lasers.  Astronomers use lasers to focus their telescopes. 

The lasers, which are needed to adjust the adaptive optics of the telescopes, also appear to be capable of disrupting certain satellite sensors.

Air Force Space Command has “restricted when and where US observatories can fire them, and the observatories have voluntarily complied, with little impact on astronomy.”

However, restrictions which started about two years ago may now be more burdensome, increasing from a few blackout periods per night to hundreds.

Astronomers don’t really know what the risk to the spacecraft is.

While the U.S. Air Force takes the heat in the article (and the comments, many of which are quite comical), it is likely Space Command is only the messenger here.  Consider a few of the comments (in paraphrase), with rejoinder:

  • So what of the satellites from other nations, EU, Russia, China etc? They don’t matter?
    • Of course they matter, but the USAF doesn’t control those nations’ communications on this topic with the U.S. observatories
  • If the Air Force feels the need to spy on mountain tops…they should do so at their own risk
    • The Air Force doesn’t fly spy satellites; those belong to the intel community.  Anyway, the U.S. mountain tops are already pretty well understood.
  • Iran can stop worrying and just build thousands of vertically aimed lasers.  They can build what they like then
    • As one commenter points out, a satellite attack can be considered an attack on U.S. sovereignty
  • The government is messed up if it is more important to monitor the globe than to look into the universe
    • Well, that’s your opinion

Have a great day!