New image processing algorithm for terminal guidance of multiple kinetic-energy impactors for disrupting hazardous asteroids


This paper describes the preliminary study results of developing a hypervelocity terminal intercept guidance system of a multiple kinetic-energy impactor vehicle (MKIV). The proposed MKIV system is intended to fragment or pulverize an asteroid of smaller than approximately 150 m in diameter that is detected with a mission lead time of shorter than 10 years, without using nuclear explosive devices. This paper focuses on the development of a new image processing algorithm based on Otsu’s method for the coordinated terminal intercept guidance and control of multiple kinetic-energy impactors employing visual and/or infrared sensors. A scaled polyhedron shape model of asteroid (216) Kleopatra is used as a fictional target asteroid. GPU-based simulation results demonstrate the feasibility of impacting a small irregular-shaped asteroid by using the proposed new image processing algorithm and a classical pulsed TPN (true proportional navigation) terminal guidance law.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bong Wie.

Additional information

Bong Wie is Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University. He was the founding director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center established in 2008 at Iowa State University. In 2006, the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) presented Professor 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.

Joshua Lyzhoft received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in aerospace engineering at Iowa State University, in 2012 and 2017, respectively. He became a Pathways Intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland in 2016. 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. Since 2017, he continued his work at NASA as a civil servant. His current research effort focuses on visual/infrared sensor modeling and simulation for space applications, digital image processing, and asteroid intercept terminal guidance.

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Lyzhoft, J., Wie, B. New image processing algorithm for terminal guidance of multiple kinetic-energy impactors for disrupting hazardous asteroids. Astrodyn 3, 45–59 (2019).

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  • asteroid intercept guidance and control
  • multiple kinetic-energy impactors
  • digital image processing
  • image thresholding
  • Otsu’s method
  • irregular-shaped asteroids