Laser ablation of a Near Earth Object (NEO) on a collision course with Earth produces a cloud of ejecta which exerts a thrust on the asteroid, deflecting it from its original trajectory. The DE-STAR system provides such a thrust by illuminating an Earth-targeting asteroid or comet from afar with a stand-off system consisting of a large phased-array laser in Earth orbit. A much smaller version of the same system called DE-STARLITE travels alongside the target, operating in a stand-on mode, slowly deflecting it over a long period. Such a stand-on system would also permit directing the thrust in any desired direction through careful positioning of the laser relative to the asteroid. We present orbital simulations comparing the effectiveness of both systems across a range of laser and asteroid parameters.
Simulated parameters include magnitude, duration and, for the stand-on system, direction of the thrust, as well as the size and orbital characteristics of the target asteroid. These simulations indicate that deflection distance is, in general, proportional to the magnitude of thrust, proportional to the square of the laser on time, and inversely proportional to the mass. Furthermore, deflection distance shows strong dependence on thrust direction with optimal direction varying with the asteroid's orbital eccentricity. As one example, we consider a 325 m asteroid in an orbit of eccentricity e=0.2; given
15 years of warning, a force of just 2 N from a stand-on DE-STARLITE system is sufficient to deflect the asteroid by 2 Earth radii. We discuss numerous scenarios and discuss a practical implementation of such a system consistent with current launch vehicle capabilities.