QinetiQ Studies How to Save World From Killer Asteroids

Asteroid Impact Mission spacecraft. (Credit: ESA/The Science Office Ltd.)
Asteroid Impact Mission spacecraft. (Credit: ESA/The Science Office Ltd.)

FARNBOROUGH, England — QinetiQ is examining what it would take to save the world from an asteroid impact, under an €840,000 [$937,398) contract awarded by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Scientists from QinetiQ’s Space business, in partnership with GMV, are defining the requirements for ESA’s Asteroid Impact Monitoring (AIM) mission, part of the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA) collaboration between ESA and NASA. AIDA will investigate the possibility of altering an asteroid’s course to prevent a collision with Earth.

According to the AIDA mission proposal, in 2022, two years after launch, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will collide with the 150m ‘Didymoon’ while ESA’s AIM satellite observes its effect on the asteroid’s trajectory. Its proximity to Earth in October 2022 will offer a unique opportunity to test advanced platform technologies and asteroid deflection techniques.

In carrying out the feasibility study for the AIM mission, QinetiQ is examining challenges such as navigation, propulsion, power and communications, before making recommendations to ESA on technical requirements.

The concept is being considered for discussion at the ESA ministerial conference in November 2016.

Frank Preud’homme, Commercial Director for QinetiQ’s Space business, said: “The number of known accessible near-earth objects has more than doubled in five years. However, while we are better equipped than ever to detect threats from asteroids, we are not yet able to defend our planet against them. The AIDA mission could be the first step in creating that line of defence.

“We are acting as the architects of the AIM mission, which is a very exciting prospect. Our experience in developing ESA’s Proba small satellites makes us uniquely placed to meet the complex technical and budgetary challenges of this study. This role also puts us in a strong position for the next phase if it gains approval at the ministerial conference in 2016.”

About QinetiQ

A FTSE250 company, QinetiQ uses its world class knowledge, research and innovation to provide high-end technical expertise and advice, to customers in the global aerospace, defence and security markets. QinetiQ’s unique position enables it to be a trusted partner to government organisations, predominantly in the UK and the US, including defence departments as well as other international customers in targeted sectors. Follow us on twitter @QinetiQ. Visit our blog www.qinetiq-blogs.com

  • JamesG

    Money for nothing…

  • 500 meters every 130,000 years. Sure. Nothing to worry about.

  • Aerospike

    Just to be sure: AIM & DART (AIDA) are not to be confused with ARM!

  • ThomasLMatula

    This story could be very interesting IF proven true.

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/02/indian-man-could-be-first-recorded-human-fatality-due-to-a-meteorite/

    “Indian officials say a meteorite struck the campus of a private
    engineering college on Saturday, killing one person. If scientists
    confirm the explosion was due to a meteorite, it would be the first
    recorded human fatality due to a falling space rock.

    According to local reports, a bus driver was killed on Saturday when a
    meteorite landed in the area where he was walking, damaging the window
    panes of nearby buses and buildings. Three other people were injured.”

    Some reaction from India

    http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/070216/vellore-explosion-meteorite-killed-tn-bus-driver.html

    “Chennai: With the State government on Sunday confirming
    that the mysterious explosion in Vellore, which claimed a life and
    injured three others, was the result of a meteoroid strike, experts from
    all over the country were alarmed and expressed their concern over the
    inability to track these foreign objects hitting the Earth’s surface.”

  • redneck

    Or you can learn to divert large dinokiller with smaller NEO. Ten kilotons at ten km sec will change a gigaton monster by eight km per day. Two years lead time and you have something.

  • Hug Doug

    If confirmed, that would be really big news.

  • JamesG

    No its an issue. However this is almost a million dollars spent for nothing but a paper project that does zero to address the issue, as part of a “test” that won’t have any impact (sorry couldn’t resist) on our ability to actually defend against an actual threat asteroid. It will just become another trade study that will go on the shelf with the rest of them.

    But the ESA has money to throw around, so throw they will…

  • windbourne

    Which is why something like ARM gets us started down this parth.

  • Complain to your ministers. I like something like this a LOT better then a pin prick kinetic impactor experiment that will do nothing but muck up the environment around an asteroid.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The real key is to develop the technology to mine them since it has a huge overlap with diverting them. A NEO headed to Earth won’t do any damage if its broken into loads of ore for processing long before it reaches here.

    And even if it isn’t the capability to reach and operate on NEOs that will come from mining efforts will make it much easier to apply other solutions, a capability we just don’t have now.

    That is why one of the great unrecognized side benefits of the new space resources act is it creates the incentive for firms to find and mine NEO’s. Ultimately that would provide the greatest benefit “for all mankind” if it prevents humans from being wipe out by an impact.

    Sadly the political agenda of the “internationalists” and combined with the greed of the Moon Treaty nations may prevent that by making NEO mining as impractical as the LOS made sea floor mining ventures. How ironic, and tragic, it would be if in their efforts to benefit the poor of the world they are instead responsible for destroying it.