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Research Spacecraft for Asteroids Studies


Conception of Creation of Research Spacecraft with Kinetic Penetrators for Aimed Attack on Asteroids to Study Their Properties

Tech Area / Field

  • SAT-EXP/Extraterrestrial Exploration/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation
  • SAT-STM/Spacecraft Trajectories and Mechanics/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation
  • SAT-UNM/Unmanned Spacecraft/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Makeyev Design Bureau of State Rocket Center, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Miass

Supporting institutes

  • VNIITF, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Snezhinsk\nInstitute of Computational Mathematics and Mathematical Geophysics, Russia, Novosibirsk reg., Novosibirsk

Project summary

During the past five or seven years scientists of some countries with advanced scientific and engineering experience devoted their close attention to asteroids approaching the Earth (AAE). Some researchers resolve a problem how dangerous AAEs can be taken away from trajectories that permit them to fall on the Earth, other researchers consider AAE as a source of scarce raw materials for the industry and they could be softly landed on the Earth or processed into near-earth orbits.

Solutions to the first or the second problem will require different energy devices to make the direct effect on the asteroids and therefore knowledges are necessary about details of asteroid material's composition, strength and chemical properties, parameters of their motion along trajectories.

The reseach carried out mainly by means of ground optical and radio telescopes has defined the following distinctive features of the asteroids:

– their forms, dimensions and composition can change within a wide range of values depending on an asteroid;
– during their motion along a trajectory they rotate with a rate that also has a wide range of values;
– asteroids have no visible gravity because of their small dimensions;
– trajectory distribution of AAEs dangerous for the Earth is not stationary in particular for small asteroids.

Here the composition of bowels of the asteroids can be assessed only by using their average density estimated on the basis of data about their mass and diameter.

The program NEAR is the first program concerning the direct study of asteroids 433 Eros and here a vehicle that will fly near the asteroid at a distance of appoximately 24 km during about a year will allow the researchers to determine the physical and geological properties, the chemical and mineralogical composition. According to the Japanese project Muses-C it is assumed that a spacecraft will be launched to the asteroid Nereus during 2001-2002. The SC must land on the asteroid surface, make a sample of parts of stones and soils from the surface and deliver them by means of a recoverable capsule on the Earth. But even in this event, after completion of these programs we will know nothing about the chemical composition, structure, mechanical properties of the asteroid rocks for a depth more then some cantimeters.

The purpose of Project is to give the conception of creation of a research spacecraft (RSC) to study asteroid properties by making kinetic effect to it by means of a penetration probe (PP), principles how to gather the telemetry data about parameters of the penetration process as well as development of an algorithm of the long-range detection of asteroids and the computer data processing in order to obtain motion parameters of the asteroids and their display image.

Within the framework of Project the conceptual research is offered to be carried out in an opportunity to make RSC (to conduct a scientific experiment in the future) for determination of structure and mechanical properties of substance inside asteroids by making a highspeed (impact velocity is up 50 km/s) penetration attack of PP and by recording results of this effect from the RSC board or by means of modules separated from it. The RSC purpose is to perform the precise guidance of the PP, the PP purpose is to hit asteroid exactly, to penetrate as much deeply as possible making a hole and ejection of deep substance of the asteroid into space, here (to the point of physical destruction of the penetrator) the RSC flying with some time delay from the PP provides registration of the PP penetration process. Dynamics of interaction of the penetrator with the asteroid and morphology of a crater made during the probe impact will give information about the structure and composition of the asteroid up to a depth of about 100 m from the asteroid surface.

As a result of processing of the measurement data the following characteristics will be determined:

– density of the asteroid soil in proportion of inmercion starting from the surface;
– chemical composition of the asteroid soil;
– chemical acoustic properties (flexibility characteristics) of the asteroid soil.

The scientific experiments can be carried out for asteroids approaching the Earth at a distance of up to 1 million kilometers. Russian launch vehicles (Proton, Zenit, Molniya) that are in operation can be used as facilities for launching RSC or rockets of foreign countries of the similar class which allow payload of a mass of 1.5…2.0 tons to be set into space.

The relatively simple method offered to study asteroids together with unique information gathered about the internal structure of asteroids may be substantially cheaper than any available programs because it is based on real achievements in rocket and space technologies. For example, a limit of the NEAR program cost is estimated by NASA as the amount of 150 million dollars. The cost of the Mars Global Syrveyor program study of Mars with the similar comlexity is eslimated as 136.6 million dollars. There is no data about the cost of the Japanese project Muses-C but we can suppose its high cost because samples of asteroid soil are provided for their delivery on the Earth.

The comparative estimation made by SRC for implementation of the offered highspeed approach of RSC with an asteroid and methods requiring approaching with a zero or near zero velocity on condition, that the mass delivered to the asteroid will be no less than 1000 kg, shows:

– the problem of highspeed approach of RSC with an asteroid near the Earth (the offered variant) can be resolved by using any launch vehicle of the above cited ones or their foreign competitors;

– the problem of soft landing for a spacecraft on an asteroid can not be resolved by using available launch vehicles of the heavy class and its resolution will require additional costs for development of a special rocket or for modification of the available ones.

Thus the reduction of costs for implementation of an experiment with the offered conception can be made owing to the following: usage of the available launch vehicles of the heavy class, a comparatively simple method of gathering data about composition of an asteroid substance that does not require to return capsules with samples of the asteroid soil, there are no retrosystems in order to make the spacecraft velocity equal to the asteroid velocity, there are no soft landing systems and systems for starting of SC from asteroid, relatively short time of the experiment.

The activities in Project will be carried out by specialists who have been creating nuclear weapons and rocket space systems.

The research offered for conduction is basic.

As a result of the research, on the basic of the up-to-date achievements in the rocket and space technologies, the following matters will be defined:

– conception for creation of a research spacecraft, its technical appearance and the main characteristics;
– principles for control and guidance of spacecraft to asteroid and for homing of probes;
– methods to gather telemetry data about fast-moving processes at a moment when the probe meets the asteroid;
– efficient configuration for construction of a ground command instrumentation complex, ground and onboard instrumentation equipment;
– calculation-theoretical substantiation of methods for determination of some physical parameters of asteroids by using penetration probes and results of calculation-mathematical simulation of processes when the probe enters the asteroid;
– algorithm of asteroid early detection and methodical bases how to determine parameters of asteroids.

The Project implementation has the same purposes which ISTC has in order to give Russia's scientists and specialists connected with weapons the opportunity to reorient their faculties for the basic research resolving an international technical problem.

Duration of the Project implementation is 18 months at man-months of 754.

It is possible to cooperate with foreign collaborators including the fields:

– data exchange in the course of the Project implementation;
– assistance and financial support for the Project participants during attendance of international meetings;
– conduction of joint symposiums and working meetings.

An engineering approach and methodology for achievement of the Project purposes are based on using of scientific and technical potencial of organizations taking part in Project that has been obtained in the course of production of strategic missiles and their components and on using of the available laboratory experimental base applied for resolving of weapons problems.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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