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Light-touch2 : a laser-based solution for the deflection, manipulation and exploitation of small asteroids

Vasile, Massimiliano and Vetrisano, Massimo and Gibbings, Alison and Garcia Yarnoz, Daniel and Sanchez Cuartielles, Joan-Pau and Hopkins, John-Mark and Burns, David and McInnes, Colin and Colombo, Camilla and Branco, Joao and Wayman, Alastair and Eckersley, Steven (2013) Light-touch2 : a laser-based solution for the deflection, manipulation and exploitation of small asteroids. In: IAA Planetary Defense Conference, 2013-04-15 - 2013-05-19.

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Abstract

This paper presents the preliminary mission and system analysis of a small-scale, light-weight system for the deflection, manipulation and exploitation of small size asteroids. The system proposed in this paper, called Light-Touch2, uses lasers to ablate the surface of an asteroid and induce a low thrust modification of its orbit. The system is applied to the deflection of a small size asteroid, 2-4 m in diameter, 130 tons in mass. It will be demonstrated that a laser system powered by conventional solar arrays can produce enough thrust to change the velocity of the asteroid by 1 m/s in less than 3 years. The current mission and system design to implement the Light-Touch2 concept envisage the use of a small class spacecraft, called AdAM (Asteroid Ablation Mission), which will fly in formation with the asteroid and apply laser ablation for a suitably long time. In the paper, the Light-Touch2 concept is compared against other known contactless deflection systems. Assessed qualities include momentum coupling and mass efficiency. The system and mission analysis will also be complemented by navigation analysis. A combination of ground-based and onboard optical measurements will be used to provide the required accuracy to fly in formation with the asteroid and to measure the deflection. The paper will therefore present the preliminary spacecraft system analysis and the preliminary transfer and navigation analysis.