Laser 'tractor beams' to tidy up space junk


By Paul Marks This article has been updated to clarify who pioneered the laser thruster technology, and to add further information about polymer-based tractor beam motors. WITH Earth’s orbit cluttered with dead satellites, discarded rocket boosters and other space junk, ways to prevent the accumulation of such debris are desperately needed. How about using a tractor beam to simply steer future junk aside, says space-flight engineer John Sinko of Nagoya University, Japan. Sinko’s idea is based on an experimental type of spacecraft engine called a laser thruster. Inside these motors,
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