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Consequences of asteroid fragmentation during impact hazard mitigation

Sanchez Cuartielles, Joan-Pau and Vasile, Massimiliano and Radice, Gianmarco (2010) Consequences of asteroid fragmentation during impact hazard mitigation. Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics, 33 (1). pp. 126-146. ISSN 0731-5090

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Abstract

The consequences of the fragmentation of an Earth-threatening asteroid due to an attempted deflection are examined in this paper. The minimum required energy for a successful impulsive deflection of a threatening object is computed and compared to the energy required to break up a small size asteroid. The results show that the fragmentation of an asteroid that underwent an impulsive deflection, such as a kinetic impact or a nuclear explosion, is a very plausible event.Astatistical model is used to approximate the number and size of the fragments as well as the distribution of velocities at the instant after the deflection attempt takes place. This distribution of velocities is a function of the energy provided by the deflection attempt, whereas the number and size of the asteroidal fragments is a function of the size of the largest fragment. The model also takes into account the gravity forces that could lead to a reaggregation of the asteroid after fragmentation. The probability distribution of the pieces after the deflection is then propagated forward in time until the encounter with Earth. A probability damage factor (i.e., expected damage caused by a given size fragment multiplied by its impact probability) is then computed and analyzed for different plausible scenarios, characterized by different levels of deflection energies and lead times.