Russian space agency Roscosmos is developing a laser cannon capable of "evaporating" satellites and space debris, according to media reports from Russia.
A proposal drafted by scientists working at Precision Instrument Systems, a subsidiary of Roscosmos, suggests building "an optic detection system which includes a solid-state laser and a transmit/receive adaptive optical system".
The cannon, according to the Russian state-owned news organisation Sputnik, will "be able to gradually vaporise space debris objects through laser ablation". Sputnik suggests that such a tool is required to rid the Earth's orbit of space debris which, within a century or two, could make it impossible to safely launch satellites into orbit.
This debris includes the abandoned launch vehicles from rockets, out-of-commission satellites and other space craft, and the debris jettisoned from past missions.
The laser will be built at the Altay Optical Laser Centre using a converted telescope, powered by a solid-state generator, Sputnik reported.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Russian authorities had already developed an airborne laser weapon capable of blasting satellites from space. That represented the culmination of work originally started in the Soviet era.
That laser, though, will need to be mounted on a new type of aircraft, reports at the time suggested, while Soviet research at on the experimental A-60 flying laser laboratory had focused on putting the laser into a somewhat large Ilyushin Il-76MD.
The Il-76, which went into service in 1974, has been used as military transporter, a refuelling aircraft as well as being produced for civil aviation in the Soviet era.
An aircraft of that size would be required to carry the powerplant necessary to generate a strong enough laser for offensive purposes.
The Russian research into lasers mirrors similar efforts in the US to to develop missile-based anti-satellite weapons, which could be completed as soon as 2020, as well as the development of lasers that can be deployed on warships.
However, in the February 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community (PDF) by Daniel Coats, director of national intelligence, Coats argued that major powers will continue to pursue anti-satellite weapons "as a means to reduce US and allied military effectiveness".
Coats continued: "Russia and China aim to have non-destructive and destructive counter-space weapons available for use during a potential future conflict. We assess that, if a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against US and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived US military advantage derived from military, civil, or commercial space systems.
"Military reforms in both countries in the past few years indicate an increased focus on establishing operational forces designed to integrate attacks against space systems and services with military operations in other domains."
These anti-satellite weapons will be deployable within the next few years, he warned.
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