Advanced laser applications in space safety

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis presents instrumentation models and mission simulations for three novel use cases of lasers in space. Firstly, the use of laser ranging in a gravimetry experiment to estimate the masses of near-Earth asteroids and other small solar system objects is presented in the context of a dual-flyby CubeSat mission. The technique is shown to be capable of estimating the mass of small bodies to better accuracy and lower mass than has previously been demonstrated using traditional radioscience. Secondly, a new method of laser ranging relevant to the above mission scenario is proposed and simulated, which utilises a CCD array as its primary sensor, along with a long-pulse or modulated CW laser. Despite the simple hardware, the new technique is shown to have great potential for precise range measurement which is sufficient for the application of asteroid mass estimation. Finally, a mission concept for the removal of space debris using a small constellation of satellites carrying high-power lasers is proposed and simulated in detail to determine its impact on a debris population designed to represent a post-collision debris shell. A high-fidelity model of the reaction forces due to photon pressure and laser ablation is developed, which models these forces in more detail than in previous, similar mission concept studies. This interaction model is then used in the mission simulation to statistically determine the impact of the mission over a 10-year operation period. The concept is then adapted for the application of collision avoidance using photon pressure, investigating the achievable deflection of a debris fragment given some notice period, and the time until a threatening fragment passes close enough to a satellite in the constellation to be affected.
Date of Award6 Feb 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorMassimiliano Vasile (Supervisor) & Edmondo Minisci (Supervisor)

Cite this