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Proceedings Paper

Long-period comet impact risk mitigation with Earth-based laser arrays
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Paper Abstract

Long-period comets (LPCs) frequently transit the inner solar system, and like near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), pose a continued risk of impact with Earth. Unlike NEAs, LPCs follow nearly parabolic trajectories and approach from the distant outer solar system where they cannot be observed. An LPC on an Earth-impact trajectory is unlikely to be discovered more than a few years in advance of its arrival, even with significant advancements in sky survey detection capabilities, likely leaving insufficient time to develop and deliver an interception mission to deflect the comet. However, recent proposals have called for the development of one or more large ∼ 1 km laser arrays placed on or near Earth primarily as a means for photon propulsion of low-mass spacecraft at delta-v above what would be feasible by traditional chemical or ion propulsion methods. Such a laser array can also be directed to target and heat a threatening comet, sublimating its ices and activating jets of dust and vapor which alter the comet's trajectory in a manner similar to rocket propulsion. Simulations of directed energy comet deflection were previously developed from astrometric models of nongravitational orbital perturbations from solar heating, an analogous process that has been observed in numerous comets. These simulations are used together with the distribution of known LPC trajectories to evaluate the effect of an operational Earth-based laser array on the LPC impact risk.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 September 2017
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 10401, Astronomical Optics: Design, Manufacture, and Test of Space and Ground Systems, 1040104 (8 September 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2274726
Show Author Affiliations
Qicheng Zhang, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
California Institute of Technology (United States)
Philip M. Lubin, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
Gary B. Hughes, California Polytechnic State Univ. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10401:
Astronomical Optics: Design, Manufacture, and Test of Space and Ground Systems
Tony B. Hull; Dae Wook Kim; Pascal Hallibert, Editor(s)

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