This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

23 March 2010

Dr. Christie Maddock's Doctoral Thesis on Mirror Bees Asteroid Mitigation Concept: "On the dynamics, navigation and control of a spacecraft formation of solar concentrators in the proximity of an asteroid"

Dr. Christie Maddock recently completed her doctoral thesis at the University of Glasgow Department of Aerospace Engineering (Space Advanced Research Team) on the dynamics and navigation of the "Mirror Bees" asteroid mitigation concept (solar concentrators around an asteroid). The thesis is now available online (Advisors: Dr. Gianmarco Radice, Dr. Massimiliano Vasile).

Video of Dr. Maddock discussing the Mirror Bees Concept (from 2009)
Encounter 2029 - Glasgow 1/2 - NEO deflection trough a multi-mirror system (part 1 of 2)

"On the dynamics, navigation and control of a spacecraft formation of solar concentrators in the proximity of an asteroid"

Maddock, Christie Alisa
PhD thesis
University of Glasgow


This purpose of this dissertation is to ascertain whether solar sublimation is a viable method for the deflection of a Near Earth Asteroid. From a research view point, the methods and analysis are applicable to proximal motion around a celestial body, in particular one with a non-Keplerian or irregular orbit as in the case here with the orbit being constantly altered by the deflection action and subject to perturbations, such as solar radiation pressure. Two concepts, and the corresponding dynamics and control, are presented based on previous trade-off and optimisation studies. The first uses a paraboloidic reflector to concentrate the solar radiation onto a solar-pumped laser, which is then directed onto a specific spot on the NEO by a small directional mirror. The spacecraft orbits are designed to fly in formation with the asteroid around the Sun, and are based on the orbital element differences. The formation orbits were optimised based on a number of single and multiple objective functions. A feedback control law is presented for the orbital maintenance required to counteract the solar radiation pressure (due primarily to the large surface area of the primary reflector), and the third-body effects due to the gravitational field of the asteroid. The second option takes advantage of the balance between the gravity attraction of the NEO and solar pressure acting on the collector. The mirror focuses the light directly onto the asteroid surface, controlling the beam by adjusting the focal point of the primary reflector. By altering the shape of the mirror surface, both the focal point and the vector of the solar radiation pressure can be manipulated. An interesting navigation strategy is proposed based on the attitude measurements, the inertial position of each spacecraft, the intersatellite position and velocity measurements, and a 2D image from a rotating onboard camera. The navigational data is used for both the orbital control of the spacecraft and for the beam pointing. The results of simulations of a hypothetical deflection mission of the asteroid Apophis are presented for the dynamics, control, attitude and navigation, accounting for solar radiation pressure, the gravity field of the asteroid, and the deviation of the NEO orbit. The results show that both concepts provide the required deflection with a feasible mass at launch, solving most of the issues related to the solar sublimation method. One of the critical aspects of this deflection concept is properly placing the concentrators in the proximity of the asteroid in order to avoid the plume impingement and the occultation from the asteroid itself. Issues regarding the contamination of the mirrors are addressed and compared with the simulated deflections predicted considering no contamination. Lastly, initial system mass budgets are presented.

Link: University of Glasgow Thesis Page

Link: Thesis: Maddock, Christie Alisa (2010) On the dynamics, navigation and control of a spacecraft formation of solar concentrators in the proximity of an asteroid. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow

Link: Biography at the University of Glasgow: Dr. Maddock

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