Stopping an asteroid at the last minute will be difficult, but possible, study says

(ORDO NEWS) — A group of experts is proposing the creation of a rapid response mission that could deflect a near-Earth asteroid shortly before it hits the Earth.

The study, published in Acta Astronautica, was carried out by Adalberto Dominguez, Victor M. Moreno and Francisco Cabral, researchers associated with the developer of the GMV satellites.

The company specializes in guidance, navigation and control (GNC) and orbital guidance systems (AOCS) for commercial, military and research purposes.

In the article, the scientists presented GMV’s recent work on the GNC system for the Kinetic Impact (KI) mission.

Many strategies have been explored to deflect asteroids that pose a threat to the Earth. Three of them are considered the most promising: nuclear standoff, gravity tractor and kinetic striker.

However, only a kinetic impactor, according to Dominguez, is applicable to deflect potentially dangerous asteroids: “The applicability of a nuclear confrontation has yet to be demonstrated, and its target will be asteroids with a diameter of several kilometers.

Currently, these asteroids do not pose a threat, the vast majority of them are under observation. Moreover, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibits nuclear explosions in outer space.

The gravity tractor is aimed at more interesting asteroids on the order of hundreds of meters in size.

There is a large percentage of asteroids of this size that have yet to be discovered, and a collision could lead to the destruction of an entire city.

However, it would take a gravity tractor several years to deflect this asteroid.”

Dominguez and his colleagues focused on developing a GNC system for a kinetic striker. The KI mission will require autonomy, mainly due to the speed of movement.

By the time of the collision with the asteroid, the spacecraft will need a relative velocity of 3 to 10 km/s.

Dominguez said: “Another additional difficulty is that we know next to nothing about the asteroid we are targeting. This requires that GNC be adapted to any possibility.

Moreover, the estimated size of asteroids creates problems in navigation, since we are talking about objects about a hundred meters in size.

Imagine the complexities associated with the problem of hitting an object with unknown dynamics and shape, at a speed of km / s and without the possibility of making any corrections from the Earth.

This makes the GNC the most important element of the critical subsystem, as it is responsible for asteroid guidance and course correction.

To make sure their GNC design could perform such calculations, the team examined algorithms commonly used by spacecraft.

Using simulations, the team found that their spacecraft would be highly accurate, with a collision error of just 40 meters. As for the guidance system only, when modeling them, the error was less than one meter.


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