A smart cloud approach to asteroid deflection

Gibbings, Alison and Vasile, Massimiliano (2011) A smart cloud approach to asteroid deflection. In: 62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011, 2011-10-03 - 2011-10-07.

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This paper presents a novel idea for the successful deflection of asteroids. Adapted initially from the kinematic impactor approach, this new concept – Smart Cloud – combines the relative benefits of the ion beam shepard in providing a large cloud of small particles for the effective deflection and mitigation of asteroids. The cloud consists of a large number of incredibly low mass nano-size spacecraft that are released at a high relative velocity. Upon impact with the asteroid the smart cloud is shown to be highly effective in creating a large artificial drag, and therefore an associated thrust, onto the asteroid. The technique is also advantageous in avoiding the catastrophic fragmentation of the asteroid which might otherwise occur with the impact of a monolithic spacecraft and/or projectile. The impact energy of each colliding particle is significantly lower than the impact energy for disruption. For analysis the smart cloud approach has been compared to other methods of potential deflection. This includes the low-thrust tug and the ion beam shepard. The paper will show that when the total deflection mass of the smart cloud is equivalent to the ion beam shepard approach, is has the advantage of significantly reducing the system mass and complexity of the spacecraft design. It is also superior in the deflection and mitigation of deep crossing asteroids.