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Experimental analysis of laser ablated plumes for asteroid deflection and exploitation

Gibbings, Alison and Vasile, Massimiliano and Hopkins, John-Mark and Burns, David and Watson, Ian A (2013) Experimental analysis of laser ablated plumes for asteroid deflection and exploitation. Acta Astronautica, 90 (1). pp. 85-97. ISSN 0094-5765

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Abstract

It has been theoretically demonstrated that laser ablation is effective in the potential deflection and mitigation of asteroids. However, there have been few experimental studies to support this claim. The theoretical models are currently based on assumptions regarding the laser beam diameter, the power requirement, the formation of the ejectaplume, and the potential for ejecta to contaminate and otherwise degrade any exposed surface. Recent proposals suggesting the use of a solar pumped laser, in particular, can be deeply affected by the re-condensation of the ejecta. To either validate, amend and/or eliminate these assumptions a series of laserablation experiments have been performed. Using a 90W, continuous-wave laser operating at 808nm, a rocky magnesium iron silica based material–olivine–has been ablated. These experiments were used to examine the validity of the theoretical model and the experienced levels of contamination. It will be shown that the current model correctly predicts the ablated mass flow rate for rocky based asteroids, but overestimates the contamination rate and the degradation of the optics.