From Event: SPIE Optical Engineering + Applications, 2017
Asteroids impact Earth daily. Some, like the Chelyabinsk Meteor that exploded over Siberia in 2013, can cause massive disruption to human enterprise (~$33M in damages) and thousands of injuries. To mitigate this potentially disastrous threat, our group has posited a phased laser array which would be used to direct energy towards approaching asteroids or other dangerous near Earth objects (NEOs). The laser array would ablate the NEO’s surface, inducing mass ejection, that would then cause a reactant thrust on the NEO in the opposite direction of the laser. To verify this concept in a laboratory environment, this work quantitatively measured the thrust induced on basalt and other asteroid regolith simulant by a 350W laser array. By placing the sample target on a torsion balance and measuring its angle of deflection under ablation, it is possible to calculate the induced thrust per unit watt. This angular change is measured with a secondary laser that reflects off of the torsion balance into an optical position sensor. By comparing this paper’s experimental results with prior theoretical and computational work, we can surmise a theoretical relationship between NEO size and required laser power for future NEO deflection missions.
Jessie Su, Nicholas Rupert, Jonathan A. Madajian, Travis R. Brashears, Gary B. Hughes, and Philip M. Lubin, "NEO deflection by laser ablation: experimental results (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10401, Astronomical Optics: Design, Manufacture, and Test of Space and Ground Systems, 1040103 (Presented at SPIE Optical Engineering + Applications: August 08, 2017; Published: 19 September 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2273588.5581301760001.
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