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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Gehrels, T. Hazards due to Comets and Asteroids. Tucson, AZ, USA: University of Arizona Press, 1994.
Proceedings of the Planetary Defense Workshop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, 1995. Available at https://e-reports-ext.llnl.gov/ pdf/232015.pdf.
Adams, R. B., Alexander, R., Bonometti, J., Chapman, J., Fincher, S., Hopkins, R., Kalkstein, M., Polsgrove, T. Survey of technologies relevant to defense from near-earth objects. NASA/TP-2004-213089, 2004.
Belton, M. J. S. Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Near-Earth object survey and detection study. Final Report, NASA HQ, PA&E, December 28, 2006. Available at https://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/FOIA/NEO Analysis Doc.pdf.
Board, S. S., National Research Council. Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth-Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies. The National Academies Press, 2010.
Hussein, A., Rozenheck, O., Utrilla, C. M. E. From detection to detection: Mitigation techniques for hidden global threats of natural space objects with short warning time. Acta Astronautica, 2016, 126: 488–496.
Wie, B. Hypervelocity nuclear interceptors for asteroid disruption. Acta Astronautica, 2013, 90(1): 146–155.
Pitz, A., Kaplinger, B., Vardaxis, G., Winkler, T., Wie, B. Conceptual design of a hypervelocity asteroid intercept vehicle (HAIV) and its flight validation mission. Acta Astronautica, 2014, 94(1): 42–56.
Kaplinger, B., Wie, B., Dearborn, D. Earth-impact modeling and analysis of a near-earth object fragmented and dispersed by nuclear subsurface explosions. Journal of Astronautical Sciences, 2012, 59(1): 101–119.
Kaplinger, B., Wie, B., Dearborn, D. Nuclear fragmentation/dispersion modeling and simulation of hazardous near-Earth objects. Acta Astronautica, 2013, 90(1): 156–164.
Kaplinger, B. D., Premaratne, P., Setzer, C., Wie, B. GPU accelerated 3D modeling and simulation of a blended kinetic impact and nuclear subsurface explosion. In: Proceedings of the AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) Conference, Guidance, Navigation, and Control and Co-located Conferences, 2013: AIAA 2013–4548.
Hupp, R., DeWald, S., Wie, B, Barbee, B. W. Mission design and analysis for suborbital intercept and fragmentation of asteroids with very short warning time. In: Proceedings of the AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, AIAA SPACE Forum, 2014: AIAA 2014–4460.
Barbee, B. W., Wie, B., Steiner, M., Getzandanner, K. Conceptual design of a flight validation mission for a hypervelocity asteroid intercept vehicle. Acta Astronautica, 2015, 106: 139–159.
Wie, B., Barbee, B. An innovative solution to NASA’s NEO impact threat mitigation grand challenge and flight validation mission architecture development. In: Proceedings of the IAA Planetary Defense Conference, 2015: GSFC-E-DAA-TN21982.
Vardaxis, G., Wie, B. Near-earth object intercept trajectory design for planetary defense. Acta Astronautica, 2014, 101: 1–15.
Wagner, S., Wie, B., Barbee, B. W. Target selection for a hypervelocity asteroid intercept vehicle flight validation mission. Acta Astronautica, 2015, 107: 247–261.
Wagner, S., Wie, B., Kaplinger, B. Computational solutions to Lambert’s problem on modern graphics processing units. Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, 2015, 38(7): 1305–1310.
Wagner, S., Wie, B. Hybrid algorithm for multiple gravity-assist and impulsive delta-V maneuvers. Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, 2015, 38(11): 2096–2107.
Hawkins, M., Pitz, A., Wie, B, Gil-Fernandez, J. Terminal-phase guidance and control analysis of asteroid interceptors. In: Proceedings of the AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference, Guidance, Navigation, and Control and Co-located Conferences, 2010: AIAA 2010–8348.
Hawkins, M., Wie, B., Guo, Y. Spacecraft guidance algorithms for asteroid intercept and rendezvous missions. International Journal Aeronautical and Space Sciences, 2012, 13(2): 154–169.
Guo, Y., Hawkins, M., Wie, B. Applications of generalized zero-effort-miss/zero-effort-velocity (ZEM/ZEV) feedback guidance algorithm. Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, 2013, 36(3): 810–820.
Guo, Y., Hawkins, M., Wie, B. Waypoint-optimized zero-effort-miss/zero-effort-velocity (ZEM/ZEV) feedback guidance for mars landing. Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, 2013, 36(3): 799–809.
Lyzhoft, J., Hawkins, M., Kaplinger, B., Wie, B. GPU-based optical navigation and terminal guidance simulation of a hypervelocity asteroid intercept vehicle. In: Proceedings of AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference, 2013: AIAA 2013–4966.
Lyzhoft, J., Groath, D., Wie, B. Optical and infrared sensor fusion for hypervelocity asteroid intercept vehicle. In: Proceedings of the AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, 2014: AAS 14–421.
Lyzhoft, J., Wie, B. IR telescope and sensor characterization for hypervelocity asteroid intercept guidance. In: Proceedings of the AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2014: AIAA 2014–4299.
Lyzhoft, J., Basart, J., Wie, B. Infrared sensor modeling and GPU simulation of terminal guidance for asteroid intercept missions. In: Proceedings of the AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2015: AAS 15–563.
Lyzhoft, J., Basart, J., Wie, B. A new terminal guidance sensor system for asteroid intercept or rendezvous missions. Acta Astronautica, 2016, 119: 147–159.
Lyzhoft, J., Wie, B. Hypervelocity terminal guidance of a multiple kinetic-energy impactor vehicle (MKIV). In: Proceedings of the AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, 2016: AAS 16–411.
National Research Council. Effects of Nuclear Earth-Penetrator and Other Weapons. National Academies Press, 2005.
Wood, L., Hyde, R., Ishikawa, M., Teller, E. Cosmic bombardment V: Threat object-dispersing approaches to active planetary defense. In: Proceedings of the Planetary Defense Workshop, 1995.
Wie, B., Zimmerman, B., Premaratne, P., Lyzhoft, J., Vardaxis, G. A new non-nuclear MKIV (multiple kinetic-energy impactor vehicle) mission concept for dispersively pulverizing small asteroids. In: Proceedings of the AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2015: AAS 15–567.
Colvin, R. D., Wuerl, A. M., Mak, M. S. System and method for dispensing of multiple kill vehicles using an integrated multiple kill vehicle payload. U.S. Patent 8,575,526, 2013.
Leal, M. A., Baker, T. L., P ibsen, K. P. Multiple kill vehicle (MKV) interceptor with autonomous kill vehicles. U.S. Patent 7,494,090, 2009.
Bruck, S. M., Dearborn, D., Schultz, P. Limits on the use of nuclear explosives for asteroid de ection. Acta Astronautica, 2013, 90: 103–111.
Premaratne, P., Zimmerman, B., Setzer, C., Harry, J., Wie, B. Nuclear explosion energy coupling models for optimal fragmentation of asteroids. In: Proceedings of the AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, 2014: AAS 14–285.
Zimmerman, B., Wie, B. Computational validation of nuclear explosion energy coupling models for asteroid fragmentation. In: Proceedings of the AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2014: AIAA 2014–4146.
Bruck, S. M., Owen, J. M., Miller, P. L. Nuclear and kinetic approaches to asteroid defense: New numerical insights. In: Proceedings of the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, 2015, 46: 1673.
Weaver, R., Barbee, B., Wie, B., Zimmerman, B. Los Alamos RAGE simulations of the HAIV mission concept. In: Proceedings of the 4th IAA Planetary Defense Conference, 2015: IAA-PDC-15-03-14.
Zimmerman, B., Wie, B. GPU-accelerated computational tool development for studying the effectiveness of nuclear subsurface explosions. In: Proceedings of the 4th IAA Planetary Defense Conference, 2015: IAA-PDC-15-03-15.
Zimmerman, B., Wie, B. A GPU-accelerated computational tool for asteroid disruption modeling and simulation. In: Proceedings of the AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2015: AAS 15–568.
Zimmerman, B., Wie, B. GPU-accelerated computational tool development for studying the effectiveness of asteroid disruption techniques. Acta Astronautica, 2016, 127: 644–654.
Zimmerman, B. J., Wie, B. Graphics-processing-unit-accelerated multiphase computational tool for asteroid fragmentation/pulverization simulation. AIAA Journal, 2017, 55(2): 599–609.
Vardaxis, G., Wie, B. Planetary defense mission applications of heavy-lift launch vehicles. In: Proceedings of the AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2015: AAS 15–564.
Information on www.spacex.com/falcon-heavy.
Information on www.spacelaunchreport.com/falcon9. html.
Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle Payload User’s Guide. Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, 2009.
Smith, D. A. SLS mission planners guide (MPG) overview. NASA Advanced Development Office (XP70), 2014.
Vardaxis, G., Sherman, P., Wie, B. Impact risk assessment and planetary defense mission planning for asteroid 2015 PDC. Acta Astronautica, 2016, 122: 307–323.
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.
About this article
Cite this article
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
- planetary defense
- kinetic-energy impactor (KEI)
- asteroid disruption
- terminal intercept guidance
- heavy-lift launch vehicles (HLLV)