Europe and US teaming up for asteroid deflection

Europe and US teaming up for asteroid deflection
NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test, DART, mission is the US component of AIDA, intended to collide with the smaller of two bodies of the Didymos binary asteroid system in October 2022. ESA's Hera mission will then perform follow-up post-impact observations. Credit: NASA

Asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from the US, Europe and around the world will gather in Rome next week to discuss the latest progress in their common goal: an ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space, to prove the technique as a viable method of planetary defense.

This combined is known as the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment, or AIDA for short. Its purpose is to deflect the orbit of the smaller body of the double Didymos asteroids between Earth and Mars through an impact by one spacecraft. Then a second spacecraft will survey the crash site and gather the maximum possible data on the effect of this collision.

The three-day International AIDA Workshop will take place on 11–13 September in the historic surroundings of the "Aula Ottagona' in central Rome, part of the Baths of Emperor Diocletian which went on to serve as a planetarium in the last century.

Participants will share the current progress of the two spacecraft making up AIDA—including the smaller nano-spacecraft they will carry aboard them—as well the latest results of global astronomical campaigns undertaken to learn more about the distant Didymos asteroids.

NASA's contribution to AIDA, the Double Asteroid Impact Test, or DART spacecraft, is already under construction for launch in summer 2021, to collide with its target at 6.6 km/s in September 2022. Flying along with DART will be an Italian-made miniature CubeSat called LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids) to record the moment of impact.

Credit: European Space Agency

Then will come ESA's part of AIDA, a mission called Hera which will perform a close-up survey of the post-impact asteroid, acquiring measurements such as the asteroid's mass and detailed crater shape. Hera will also deploy a pair of CubeSats for close-up asteroid surveys and the very first radar probe of an asteroid.

The results returned by Hera would allow researchers to better model the efficiency of the collision, to turn this grand-scale experiment into a technique which could be repeated as needed in the event of a real threat.

Hera is currently undergoing final phase B2 design work, ahead of a decision to proceed by Europe's space ministers at the Space19+ Ministerial Conference this November, as part of the proposed new ESA Space Safety Programme. Launch will occur in October 2024 and the journey will take about two years.

"DART can perform its mission without Hera—the effect of its impact on the asteroid's orbit will be measurable using Earth ground-based observatories alone," explains Ian Carnelli, managing Hera for ESA.

Europe and US teaming up for asteroid deflection
ESA's Hera asteroid mission approaching the smaller of the two Didymos asteroids to map the impact crater left by NASA's DART spacecraft. Credit: European Space Agency

"But flying the two missions together will greatly magnify their overall knowledge return. Hera will in fact gather essential data to turn this one-off experiment into an asteroid deflection technique applicable to other asteroids. Hera will also be the first mission to rendezvous with a , a mysterious class of object believed to make up around 15% of all known asteroids.

"And our mission will test a variety of important new technologies, including deep space CubeSats, inter-satellite links and autonomous image-based navigation techniques, while also providing us with valuable experience of low-gravity operations.

Europe and US teaming up for asteroid deflection
Credit: European Space Agency

"I also believe it is vital that Europe plays a leading role in AIDA, an innovative mission originally developed through ESA research back in 2003. An international effort is the appropriate way forward—planetary defense is in everyone's interest."

A near-Earth asteroid system, Didymos's main body measures about 780 m across, with its moonlet about 160 m in diameter, about the size of Egypt's Great Pyramid. It was selected carefully as a deflection target.

Due to the relatively small mass and gravities of these bodies, the smaller asteroid orbits its parent at a comparatively low velocity of a few centimeters per second, making it feasible to shift its orbit in a measurable way—something which would not be achievable so precisely with a lone asteroid in a much more rapidly moving solar orbit.


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Sep 02, 2019
While they're doing that, they really should start getting a system together for launching, from LEO, a really beefy answer to any really beefy random threat from those > 100 meter rocks that populate the nightmare headlines of the Express.uk.co on a weekly basis.

Some day that scandal-rag is going to cry wolf for real, and it could be next year, or next decade. But we need to be ready for the former, like... n o w .

Sep 02, 2019
Nothing will work better than a nuclear device. Yet there are several entities who are pushing their "gravity tugs" or other concept and they have hijacked this train. Sad.

A human crewed Nuclear Pulse Propelled spaceship capable of interplanetary missions would necessarily carry a couple thousand "pulse units" (bombs). Those devices would be just as effective deflecting a rock as pushing a spaceship.

The Parker-Dyson-Spudis Continuum states only a kiloton range water shield can make Human Space Flight Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit practical (Parker). Only a Nuclear Pulse Propulsion system can push such a shield around the solar system (Dyson). The Moon is the only place to acquire the water for shielding (Spudis), assemble, test, and launch nuclear missions.

The NASA Space Launch System is the only human-rated Super Heavy Lift Vehicle with an escape tower that makin launching fissile pits direct to the Moon an acceptable risk. SLS launch cadence needs to expand to 6 per year.

Sep 03, 2019
for the short-term, most known NEO objects are in reasonably stable orbits.
safe for now, yes that could easily change

but at this time, let us be reasonably conservative about funding any missions

a few facts, nuclear weapons are very inefficient
on the Earth's surface?
caught between the ground & the atmosphere?
they can cause extensive damage
from a tiny Human's perspective

in outer space, vacuum?
most of the force od an explosive & radiation is wasted away from the target

if you know how to engineer an nuclear explosion into a shaped-charge or coherent beam?
you are not reading this

to make it efficient, you would need to drill a tunnel basically creating a rocket nozzle

however, recent knocking at asteroidal surfaces suggests these rocks have tougher skins than expected

plus the potential for disaster if the "rock" turns out to be a mass of gravel
yeah, you blew it up but that results in most of the mass causing a larger area of destruction

- cont'd -

Sep 03, 2019
= cont'd -
my suggestion?
if you can deliver the machinery & power-plant to tunnel?
you do not need a nuclear bomb that will just will unpredictably randomize potential catastrophe

if you planned ahead?
you won't need the bomb
as if any of the generals would trust you with one, in the first place!

the very act of tunneling produces & expels the material of the asteroid
remember Newton's Principles?
that ejected material is reaction mass
slow & steady, wins the race

okay, the dangerous rock is diverted
for now

what? did you think it would just evaporate for your convenience?

here in the real world
thanks to the harsh rules of orbital mechanics?
all you did was move the danger down the road, for someone else to have to deal with

i see two profitable choices
the Venus Lagrange points would be cheap, safe, long-term parking
until someone is willing to invest in doing something productive with them

or, park them at the Earth/Luna Lagrange points for immediate industrial use

Sep 03, 2019
Cheap incremental mass reduction could be done using simple devices like slingshots with void rated elastics to fling compacted boulders, and then on the receiving end have large enclosed spiral flume-like structures that collect and absorb the incoming kinetic energy. Sorta like pinball meets asteroid mining.

Sep 03, 2019
i dunknow ren, sounds to me as if you are adding more complex variables to an already unpredictable situation?

as i said, i do not know enough to make a decision. for or against
your speculation

however, you could do simple, inexpensive experiments off Earth to prove if you could make it work

for safety sake, using small, cheap, low grade drones for testing

crowd-source the project?

& i forgot to mention on using asteroid drilling as a mass ejector for propulsion

since we would not need a large tunnel to fit a nuke in,
it would be cheaper & more efficient to drill a number of smaller holes
probably around the rock's circumference
that method would give the rock steering jets for setting a more accurate course

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