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Lasers Learn to Accurately Spot Space Junk

Beijing Fangshan Satellite Laser Observatory

The experimental research and application of the real-time pointing correction method for the laser ranging system telescope were carried out at the Beijing Fangshan Satellite Laser Observatory.

Chinese researchers have developed a set of algorithms for laser ranging telescopes that significantly improves the accuracy of detecting space junk in earth's orbit, providing a more effective way to plot safe routes for spacecraft maneuvering through the planetary scrapheap of jettisoned engines and space litter from more than a half century of space activity.

"Obtaining the precise orbit of space debris can provide effective help for the safe operation of spacecraft in orbit," says Tianming Ma, from the Chinese Academy of Surveying and Mapping, Beijing.

Ma is an author of "Research on Pointing Correction Algorithm of Laser Ranging Telescope Oriented to Space Debris," published in the Journal of Laser Applications. The study is the first time a neural network has significantly improved the pointing accuracy of a laser-ranging telescope, the authors say.

"After improving the pointing accuracy of the telescope through a neural network, space debris with a cross sectional area of 1 meter squared and a distance of 1,500 kilometers can be detected," Ma says.

From American Institute of Physics
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