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Enhanced Gravity Tractor Derived from the Asteroid Redirect Mission for Deflecting Hypothetical Asteroid 2017 PDCThe Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) concept would robotically visit a hazardous-size near-Earth asteroid (NEA) with a rendezvous spacecraft, collect a multi-ton boulder and regolith samples from its surface, demonstrate an innovative planetary defense technique known as the Enhanced Gravity Tractor (EGT), and return the asteroidal material to a stable orbit around the Moon, allowing astronauts to explore the returned material in the mid-2020s. Launch of the robotic vehicle to rendezvous with the ARM reference target, NEA (341843) 2008 EV5, would occur in late 2021 [1,2]. The robotic segment of the ARM concept uses a 40 kW Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) system with a specific impulse (Isp) of 2600 s, and would provide the first ever demonstration of the EGT technique on a hazardous-size asteroid and validate one method of collecting mass in-situ. The power, propellant, and thrust capability of the ARM robotic spacecraft can be scaled from a 40 kW system to 150 kW and 300 kW, which represent a likely future power level progression. The gravity tractor technique uses the gravitational attraction of a station-keeping spacecraft with the asteroid to provide a velocity change and gradually alter the trajectory of the asteroid. EGT utilizes a spacecraft with a high-efficiency propulsion system, such as Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP), along with mass collected in-situ to augment the mass of the spacecraft, thereby increasing the gravitational force between the objects [3]. As long as the spacecraft has sufficient thrust and propellant capability, the EGT force is only limited by the amount of in-situ mass collected and can be increased several orders of magnitude compared to the traditional gravity tractor technique in which only the spacecraft mass is used to generate the gravitational attraction force. This increase in available force greatly reduces the required deflection time. The collected material can be a single boulder, multiple boulders, regolith, or a combination of different material types using a variety of collection techniques. The EGT concept assumes that the ability to efficiently collect asteroid mass in-situ from a wide variety of asteroid types and environments is a future capability that will be developed and perfected in the future by the asteroid mining community. Additionally, it is anticipated that the mass collection would likely be performed by a single or multiple separable spacecraft to allow the SEP spacecraft to operate at safe distance from the asteroid.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Mazanek, Daniel D.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Reeves, David M.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Abell, Paul A.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Shen, Haijun
(Analytical Mechanics Associates, Inc. Hampton, VA, United States)
Qu, Min
(Analytical Mechanics Associates, Inc. Hampton, VA, United States)
Date Acquired
June 12, 2017
Publication Date
May 15, 2017
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Planetary Defense Conference 2017(Tokyo)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 995318.02.01
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

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