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Planetary protection efficiency by a small kinetic impactor

Sanchez Cuartielles, Joan-Pau and Colombo, Camilla and McInnes, Colin (2011) Planetary protection efficiency by a small kinetic impactor. In: IAA Planetary Defense Conference, Protecting Earth from Asteroids: From threat to Action, 2011-05-09 - 2011-05-12.

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Abstract

This paper re-examines the deflection concept with, arguably, the highest technological readiness level: the kinetic impactor. A baseline design for the concept with a 1,000 kg spacecraft launched from Earth is defined. The paper then analyses the capability of the kinetic spacecraft to offer planetary protection, thus, deflecting asteroids on a collision trajectory with Earth. In order to give a realistic estimate, the paper uses a set of more than 17 thousand Earth-impacting trajectories and has computed the largest asteroid mass that could be deflected to a sufficiently safe distance from Earth. By using the relative impact frequency of the different impact orbits, which can be estimated by modeling the asteroid population and the collision probability of the different impact geometries, a figure on the level of planetary protection that such a system could offer can be estimated. The results show that such a system could offer very high levels of protection, around 97% deflection reliability, against objects between 15 to 75 meters, while decreases for larger sizes.