Experimental characterization of the thrust induced by laser ablation on an asteroid

Gibbings, Alison and Vasile, Massimiliano and Hopkins, John-Mark and Burns, David and Watson, Ian A. (2013) Experimental characterization of the thrust induced by laser ablation on an asteroid. In: IAA Planetary Defense Conference, 2013-04-15 - 2013-05-19.

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    This paper presents an improved laser ablation model and compares the performance – Δv and mass efficiency - of laser ablation against contactless deflection methods based on ion-propulsion. The deflection of an asteroid through laser ablation is achieved by illuminating the surface of the asteroid with a high intensity laser light. The absorbed energy induces the sublimation of the surface material and the generation of a plume of gas and ejecta. Similar to a rocket engine, the flow of expelled material produces a continuous and controllable thrust that could be used to modify the trajectory and tumbling motion of the asteroid. Recent results gained from a series of laser ablation experiments were used to improve the sublimation and deflection models. In each experiment a terrestrial olivine sample was ablated, under vacuum, with a 90 W continuous wave laser. The outcomes of the experimental campaign have enabled the mathematic model, and its defining assumptions to be evaluated and updated

    ORCID iDs

    Gibbings, Alison, Vasile, Massimiliano ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8302-6465, Hopkins, John-Mark, Burns, David and Watson, Ian A.;