Applying GN&C Solutions to the Problem of Asteroid Interception for Planetary Defense

The impact consequences of Near Earth objects (NEO) require proactive measures to eliminate or reduce them when lead times are too short for effective deep space Deflection/destruction. To expand mitigation beyond deep space, ground-based pre-built interceptors launched minutes before atmospheric entry can respond to detection times from minutes to months. The disruption of a small NEO prior to atmospheric entry could potentially eliminate or reduce damage to the ground by dispersing its kinetic energy over a wider area.

The Guidance and Control Subdivision at The Aerospace Corporation has applied interceptor techniques to engage an incoming NEO at high altitude minutes before atmospheric entry. Objective is to disrupt the object and deposit its kinetic energy at a higher altitude and disperse it over a wider footprint on the ground. Monte Carlo analysis duplicated statistical properties of real NEOs on NASA’s database. Interceptor requirements were linked with flight time and altitude of intercept. Preliminary results show that Exoatmospheric intercept altitudes are attainable even when detection and launch occur minutes before impact. Local, regional or national protection requirements determine the number of systems and response time. Terminal guidance and disruption and debris reentry analysis were identified key areas of future work.

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