Comparing Mass Driver and Disperser Concepts for Non-Nuclear Mitigation of Asteroid Threats

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G. Friedman (2005), JBIS, 58, 310-315

Refcode: 2005.58.310
Keywords: Asteroids, planetary defense, orbital dynamics, mass drivers, dispersers

This paper compares two non-nuclear planetary defense mitigation concepts - as well as a hybrid concept -- which do not require the transportation of energy or reaction mass to the threatening asteroid: the Mass Driver and the Disperser. The development of the analysis considers the minimum energy required by each concept and presents qualitative comparisons of relative complexity and technical risks. The Mass Driver alters the asteroid trajectory by electromagnetically accelerating fragments from its surface, while the Disperser provides escape velocity to the entire mass of the asteroid. The brief study concludes that the Disperser is preferred over the Mass Driver regarding the energy requirements, complexity and technical risk; while the Mass Driver is preferred over the Disperser regarding the mass of the mining machinery which must be transported to the threatening asteroid. A hybrid concept which adds angular rate to the asteroid is also defined and analyzed. The greatest risk to all the concepts resides in the uncertainty of the composition of the asteroid as it relates to the mining operations required by all the concepts and it is recommended that the overall planetary defense strategy consider the contribution of all the concepts discussed since we cannot tell in advance what type of asteroid will threaten Earth.

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