Adaptive optics for pushing space debris

The greatest threat to the space environment is the proliferation of space debris, creating the risk of collisions with satellites and the potentially permanent contamination of space by runaway collisions known as the "Kessler Syndrome". Adaptive Optics (AO) is a technique used to restore space-like imaging conditions for ground-based optical systems by correcting atmospheric turbulence disturbances in real-time.

Within the framework of the Space Environment Management Cooperative Research Centre, the RSAA has partnered with EOS Space Systems to build a Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics system (LGS AO) for the 1.8m EOS telescope on Mount Stromlo. The system will improve satellite tracking and characterization capabilities as well as include a feature to push the debris with a high-power laser by means of photon pressure.

This project gives students the opportunity to contribute to the important work currently underway at RSAA. The project will look at techniques for mitigating the collision risk of space debris using adaptive optics and a high-power laser. By pointing the high-power laser at the object in space and using the principle of photon pressure, the object in space will change its orbit due to the interaction with the laser light. The adaptive optics is needed to define the object position accurately and to precondition the high-power laser beam, so that atmospheric distortions are pre-compensated for. There are many areas under this project the student can explore, such as designing optical and mechanical components, data reduction and image processing, control systems, and theoretical simulations.

The students will have the opportunity to work with the adaptive optic system currently being installed on the EOS 1.8m telescope, and work with world leading instrument scientists and engineers in the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC) at Mount Stromlo. Some experience in at least two of the following disciplines is highly desired: optics/optical engineering, system engineering, instrumentation, control systems, computer science, image analysis, physics.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Celine d'Orgeville