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Impact hazard protection efficiency by a small kinetic impactor

Sanchez Cuartielles, Joan-Pau and Colombo, Camilla (2013) Impact hazard protection efficiency by a small kinetic impactor. Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 50 (2). pp. 380-393. ISSN 0022-4650

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Abstract

In this paper the ability of a small kinetic impactor spacecraft to mitigate an Earth-threatening asteroid is assessed by means of a novel measure of efficiency. This measure estimates the probability of a space system to deflect a single randomly-generated Earth-impacting object to a safe distance from the Earth. This represents a measure of efficiency that is not biased by the orbital parameters of a test-case object. A vast number of virtual Earth-impacting scenarios are investigated by homogenously distributing in orbital space a grid of 17,518 Earth impacting trajectories. The relative frequency of each trajectory is estimated by means Opik’s theory and Bottke’s near Earth objects model. A design of the entire mitigation mission is performed and the largest deflected asteroid computed for each impacting trajectory. The minimum detectable asteroid can also be estimated by an asteroid survey model. The results show that current technology would likely suffice against discovered airburst and local damage threats, whereas larger space systems would be necessary to reliably tackle impact hazard from larger threats. For example, it is shown that only 1,000 kg kinetic impactor would suffice to mitigate the impact threat of 27.1% of objects posing similar threat than that posed by Apophis.