Defence-tech play Electro Optic Systems (ASX:EOS) has just announced a major breakthrough in its laser technology, in the global effort to mitigate space debris.

The latest innovation involves the use of Guide Star Laser, to allow high speed optics to form laser beams that can track and move space debris at lower altitudes and faster speeds than ever previously possible.

The Guide Star Laser technology was developed by EOS in collaboration with the Space Environment Research Centre (SERC), with the infrastructure located at the EOS Space Research Centre, at Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra.

The laser can now be commercialised and owned by EOS, and potential applications include not only debris mitigation, but also high bandwidth satellite communications.

The Guide Laser Star

Lasers are used everyday for locating objects in space and tracking space debris, however most of them are not visible.

In order to preserve the space environment, a new mission requires the use of a bright yellow laser. The yellow colour is specifically required to stimulate atoms in the earth’s upper atmosphere, so that they would glow like a bright star.

The yellow light from this artificial ‘guide star’ is used to measure the atmospheric distortion of light travelling to and from space.

This distortion can then be used to pre-distort a second laser, triggering the atmosphere to act as a correcting lens to restore the laser beam to ideal optical properties. This then enables the second laser to propagate into space without degrading its intensity or functionality, allowing space debris to be actively manoeuvred from the ground.

Why is this important?

Around US$700 billion worth of global space infrastructure including satellites currently deliver essentials to our lives, including communications, weather forecast, and climate change monitoring.

More launches are also taking place than ever before, but at the same time, space debris is also rising, which increases the rate of collisions.

The increase in space debris also increases the risk of a catastrophic situation known as the Kessler syndrome space avalanche, where object density in space is high enough to cause a cascade of collisions where one collision generates debris that causes further collisions. (If you’ve seen Gravity, you know what that means.)

EOS CEO, Dr Ben Greene, said the breakthrough today has been years in the making.

“Space debris is a major societal threat, globally but especially in Australia due to our heavy economic dependence on space assets.”

“For decades, EOS has been a world leader in the tracking and classification of space debris. Our accurate, dynamic database of space objects is the key pre-requisite for the active manipulation of those space objects from the ground using lasers, but this capability has long been out of reach, requiring major advances in technology,” he added.

EOS briefly became a $1 billion company last June, after the Morrison government expressed interest in acquiring its Remote Weapons Stations. The market cap has since come down to $820 million today.

The latest result showed that it made a net loss of $27 million for the full year of FY20.

The company’s share price is down by 7 per cent over the last twelve months.


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