Bernd Dachwald, Ralph Kahle, Bong Wie
Solar Sail Kinetic Energy Impactor (KEI) Mission Design Tradeoffs for Impacting and Deflecting Asteroid 99942 Apophis
AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference 2006, Keystone (CO), USA
Near-Earth asteroid 99942 Apophis provides a typical example for the evolution of asteroid orbits that lead to Earth-impacts after a close Earth-encounter that results in a resonant return. Apophis will have a close Earth-encounter in 2029 with potential very close subsequent Earth-encounters (or even an impact) in 2036 or later, depending on whether it passes through one of several so-called gravitational keyholes during its 2029-encounter. Several pre-2029-deflection scenarios to prevent Apophis from doing this have been investigated so far. Because the keyholes are less than 1 km in size, a pre-2029 kinetic impact is clearly the best option because it requires only a small change in Apophis' orbit to nudge it out of a keyhole. A single solar sail Kinetic Energy Impactor (KEI) spacecraft that impacts Apophis from a retrograde trajectory with a very high relative velocity (75-80 km/s) during one of its perihelion passages at about 0.75 AU would be a feasible option to do this. The spacecraft consists of a 160 m x 160 m, 168 kg solar sail assembly and a 150 kg impactor. Although conventional spacecraft can also achieve the required minimum deflection of 1 km for this approx. 320 m-sized object from a prograde trajectory, our solar sail KEI concept also allows the deflection of larger objects. In this paper, we also show that, even after Apophis has flown through one of the gravitational keyholes in 2029, solar sail Kinetic Energy Impactor (KEI) spacecraft are still a feasible option to prevent Apophis from impacting the Earth, but many KEIs would be required for consecutive impacts to increase the total Earth-miss distance to a safe value. In this paper, we elaborate potential pre- and post-2029 KEI impact scenarios for a launch in 2020, and investigate tradeoffs between different mission parameters.