Planetary defense mission concepts for disrupting/pulverizing hazardous asteroids with short warning time

Abstract

This paper presents an overview of space mission concepts for disrupting or pulverizing hazardous asteroids, especially with warning time shorter than approximately 10 years. An innovative mission concept, referred to as a nuclear hypervelocity asteroid intercept vehicle (HAIV) system, employs both a kinetic-energy impactor and nuclear explosive devices. A new mission concept of exploiting a multiple kinetic-energy impactor vehicle (MKIV) system that doesn’t employ nuclear explosives is proposed in this paper, especially for asteroids smaller than approximately 150 m in diameter. The multiple shock wave interaction effect on disrupting or pulverizing a small asteroid is discussed using hydrodynamic simulation results. A multi-target terminal guidance problem and a planetary defense mission design employing a heavy-lift launch vehicle are also brie y discussed in support of the new non-nuclear MKIV mission concept. The nuclear HAIV and non-nuclear MKIV systems complement to each other to effectively mitigate the various asteroid impact threats with short warning time.

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Correspondence to Bong Wie.

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Bong Wie is the Vance Coffman Endowed Chair Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University. He is the founding director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center established in 2008 at Iowa State University. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University in 1978 and 1981, respectively. In 2006, the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) presented Prof. Wie with the Mechanics and Control of Flight Award for his innovative research on advanced control of complex spacecraft such as agile imaging satellites, solar sails, and large space structures. He is the author of two AIAA textbooks “Space Vehicle Dynamics and Control” and “Space Vehicle Guidance, Control, and Astrodynamics”. He has published more than 200 technical papers including 75 journal articles, and he holds three U.S. patents on CMG singularity-avoidance steering logic. He was the PI of NASA’s NIAC (NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts) Phase 1 and 2 studies in 2011-2014 for developing planetary defense mission concepts. His current research effort focuses on developing innovative, yet technically credible, space technologies for disrupting hazardous asteroids with short warning time. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Astrodynamics.

Ben Zimmerman received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University in 2011, 2013, and 2016 respectively. His M.S. degree focused on implementing computational fluid dynamics methods on GPU (graphics processing unit) computing architectures. For his Ph.D. under the direction of Prof. Wie, Dr. Zimmerman developed and implemented GPU algorithms for asteroid disruption/pulverization modeling and simulations. He has published several conference and journal papers with a primary focus on efficient implementation and optimization of numerical algorithms. He received a Research Excellence Award as well as a Teaching Excellence Award from Iowa State University. Dr. Zimmerman has experience with multi-CPU multi-GPU systems and implementing algorithms for numerical optimization, ordinary and partial differential equations, state estimation problems, and multi-target tracking. Dr. Zimmerman is currently a senior engineer at Systems & Technology Research in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Joshua Lyzhoft received his B.S. degree in aerospace engineering at Iowa State University in 2012. He continued his Ph.D. program under the direction of Prof. Wie and became a Pathways Intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland in January 2016. He has had several conference papers published, as well as a journal article in Acta Astronautica. He received several awards: the best student paper award at the 2015 Planetary Defense Conference for his work in hypervelocity asteroid intercept, the Alexander Lippisch Scholarship, and an Iowa State University Research Excellence Award. His current research effort focuses on visual/infrared sensor modeling and simulation for space applications, digital image processing, asteroid intercept terminal guidance, and muli-body asteroid system simulations using polyhedron models. After his tentative graduation in spring of 2017, he plans on continuing his work at NASA as a civil servant.

George Vardaxis is an aerospace engineer specializing in computational orbital mechanics, specifically asteroid mission optimization, trajectory design, and asteroid impact risk assessment. He completed his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering, with a second major in mathematics, in May 2011 from Iowa State University. Upon graduation he continued his studies at Iowa State University as a Ph.D. candidate under the direction of Prof. Wie in the Asteroid Deflection Research Center (ADRC), and graduated in May 2015. Over his time in the ADRC he authored and co-authored several conference papers, as well as a few journal articles in Acta Astronautica, and received an Iowa State University Research Excellence Award. His research interests include mission design, interplanetary trajectory design, planetary defense, and trajectory optimization. Since January 2016, Dr. Vardaxis works as a member of the Technical Staff at the Aerospace Corporation in Chantilly, VA, USA.

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Wie, B., Zimmerman, B., Lyzhoft, J. et al. Planetary defense mission concepts for disrupting/pulverizing hazardous asteroids with short warning time. Astrodyn 1, 3–21 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42064-017-0002-9

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Keywords

  • planetary defense
  • kinetic-energy impactor (KEI)
  • asteroid disruption
  • terminal intercept guidance
  • heavy-lift launch vehicles (HLLV)