Technology needs for asteroid and comet trajectory deflection of a Tunguska-sized object using fission propulsion

Lenard, Roger X.; Houts, Michael
January 2000
AIP Conference Proceedings;2000, Vol. 504 Issue 1, p1525
Academic Journal
Recent studies of Near Earth Object Interceptions (DOC, 1993) have shown that impact of the Earth by a civilization-killing sized asteroid are rare. However, some have publicly stated that impact of the Earth by a smaller asteroid, ∼100m diameter, such as the one impacting near Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908, occur approximately twice per century (Young, 1999). While such objects will not necessarily result in widespread societal dislocations, such objects are sufficiently energetic to destroy a very large city, such as Los Angeles or New York. Consequential earthquakes and fault disruptions can result in further damage and loss of life. Displacing the trajectory of a Tunguska-sized asteroid, estimated to be <100m in diameter so that it will convincingly miss the Earth is not a trivial venture. If the asteroid is stony in nature, in composition, it will weigh 20–30 million kg. Depending upon when and where the asteroid is discovered, a velocity increment of ∼10cm/s is necessary to impart to the asteroid in order for it to convincingly miss the cis-lunar system. The technology requirements for system a system, based on fission propulsion are examined, and a strawman concept is developed. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.


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