Journal of Astronautics ›› 2019, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (2): 156-163.doi: 10.3873/j.issn.1000-1328.2019.02.004

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A Laser Driven Relay Small Satellite Constellation for Space Debris Active Removal and Feasibility Study

CHEN Chuan, YANG Wu lin, YU Qian, LI Ming, GONG Zi zheng   

  1. 1. Science and Technology on Reliability and Environmental Engineering Laboratory, Beijing Institute of Spacecraft Environment Engineering, Beijing 100094, China;2.Beijing Institute of Spacecraft Environment Engineering, Beijing 100094, China;3.China Academy of Space Technology, Beijing 100094, China
  • Received:2018-05-08 Revised:2018-06-27 Online:2019-02-15 Published:2019-02-25


Space-based laser ablation driven technique is considered to be the most effective technique for space debris active removal, especially having a unique advantage for the dangerous space debris with a size of 1-10 cm. However, this technique has very high requirements for the laser single pulse energy, beam quality, and aperture of the transmitting mirror, and the current hardware is not enough to meet the requirements of applications, so it is restricted for applications. In order to overcome these technical barriers, the laser driven relay idea is proposed, i.e. the debris orbit height is reduced by the laser on a small satellite platform. The debris orbit height is gradually reduced step by step through the small satellite platforms with different orbit altitude, and the small satellite platforms forms a laser driven relay small satellite constellation. Based on the existing laser performance parameters and the dynamic model of the laser ablation driven debris, the removal capacity of a single satellite platform is calculated, and the results show that 10 J single laser pulse energy and 0.5 m-diameter emission mirror can drive the debris with a size less than 10 cm and a range within 20 kilometers. By using this laser driven relay idea, a small satellite constellation system is designed, which is composed of 30 small satellites with different heights, for removing debris from 800 km altitude area. The removing performance of the constellation system is verified by the numerical simulation.The advantage of this research is to reduce the requirements for the hardware of space debris removal by space-based laser, using the currently popular small satellite constellation concept. It provides a new way for the applications of the space-based laser ablation driven technique, and also the proposed laser driven relay small satellite constellation system has an engineering reference value.

Key words: Active space debris removal, Space-based laser, Laser driven relay, Small satellite constellations, Removal strategy

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