Ion Beam Shepherd for Asteroid Deflection
C. Bombardelli, J. Pelaez
We present a novel concept to impart a continuous thrust to an Earth threatening asteroid from a hovering spacecraft without need for physical attachment nor gravitational interaction with the asteroid. The concept involves an ion thruster placed at a distance of a few asteroid diameters directing a stream of quasi-neutral plasma against the asteroid surface resulting into a net transferred momentum. As the transmitted force is independent of the asteroid mass and size the method allows deflecting subkilometer asteroids with a spacecraft much lighter when compared to a gravity tractor spacecraft of equal deflection capability. The finding could make low-cost asteroid deflection missions possible in the coming years.
Cite as: arXiv:1102.1276v1 [physics.space-ph]
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