Electric Solar Wind Sail Kinetic Energy Impactor for Asteroid Deflection Missions
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- Yamaguchi, K. & Yamakawa, H. J of Astronaut Sci (2016) 63: 1. doi:10.1007/s40295-015-0081-x
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An electric solar wind sail uses the natural solar wind stream to produce low but continuous thrust by interacting with a number of long thin charged tethers. It allows a spacecraft to generate a thrust without consuming any reaction mass. The aim of this paper is to investigate the use of a spacecraft with such a propulsion system to deflect an asteroid with a high relative velocity away from an Earth collision trajectory. To this end, we formulate a simulation model for the electric solar wind sail. By summing thrust vectors exerted on each tether, a dynamic model which gives the relation between the thrust and sail attitude is proposed. Orbital maneuvering by fixing the sail’s attitude and changing tether voltage is considered. A detailed study of the deflection of fictional asteroids, which are assumed to be identified 15 years before Earth impact, is also presented. Assuming a spacecraft characteristic acceleration of 0.5 mm/s 2, and a projectile mass of 1,000 kg, we show that the trajectory of asteroids with one million tons can be changed enough to avoid a collision with the Earth. Finally, the effectiveness of using this method of propulsion in an asteroid deflection mission is evaluated in comparison with using flat photonic solar sails.