Near-Earth object interception using nuclear thermal rocket propulsion
Journal Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part G: Journal of Aerospace Engineering, Issue Volume 225, Number 2 / 2011, Pages 181-193, DOI 10.1243/09544100JAERO753
X-L Zhang, E Ball, C Granier, L Kochmanski, S D Howe
1 Centre for Space Nuclear Research, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, USA
Planetary defense has drawn wide study: despite the low probability of a large-scale impact, its consequences would be disastrous. The study presented here evaluates available protection strategies to identify bottlenecks limiting the scale of near-Earth object that could be deflected, using cutting-edge and near-future technologies. It discusses the use of a nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) as a propulsion device for delivery of thermonuclear payloads to deflect or destroy a long-period comet on a collision course with Earth. A ‘worst plausible scenario’ for the available warning time (10 months) and comet approach trajectory are determined, and empirical data are used to make an estimate of the payload necessary to deflect such a comet. Optimizing the tradeoff between early interception and large deflection payload establishes the ideal trajectory for an interception mission to follow. The study also examines the potential for multiple rocket launch dates. Comparison of propulsion technologies for this mission shows that NTR outperforms other options substantially. The discussion concludes with an estimate of the comet size (5 km) that could be deflected using NTR propulsion, given current launch capabilities.
Link: Paper (PDF)
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.
25 April 2011
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