A multiple-vehicle strategy for near-Earth asteroid capture

Ionescu, L. , McInnes, C. R. and Ceriotti, M. (2022) A multiple-vehicle strategy for near-Earth asteroid capture. Acta Astronautica, 199, pp. 71-85. (doi: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2022.07.004)

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The use of asteroid resources could benefit future space missions. Instead of lifting the necessary materials off the Earth, they can be then sourced directly in space. Asteroid capture missions aim to bring asteroids closer to Earth, where they can be permanently accessed. This paper introduces a new strategy for asteroid capture missions, where two spacecraft are used for capturing near-Earth asteroids. These spacecraft act together as a ‘pitcher’ spacecraft and ‘catcher’ spacecraft, where the pitcher spacecraft hops from asteroid to asteroid and deflects them towards an orbit in the vicinity of Earth, while the catcher spacecraft is stationed at the Earth and captures the incoming asteroids. This novel two-spacecraft strategy is compared to a conventional one-spacecraft strategy using three analyses; a preliminary analysis using coplanar and circular orbits to define the problem, a statistical analysis using fictional near-Earth asteroids to obtain a large set of data, and an analysis where real near-Earth asteroids are used as mission targets. A mass model is developed to compute the retrieved asteroid mass per unit of initial wet spacecraft mass for missions aiming to retrieve multiple asteroids. Results show that the two-spacecraft strategy is capable of returning more asteroid mass and often at a lower mission duration.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Asteroid capture, near-Earth asteroids, multiple-vehicle strategy.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Ceriotti, Dr Matteo and Ionescu, Livia and McInnes, Professor Colin
Authors: Ionescu, L., McInnes, C. R., and Ceriotti, M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Systems Power and Energy
Journal Name:Acta Astronautica
ISSN (Online):1879-2030
Published Online:06 July 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in Acta Astronautica 199: 71-85
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
306654Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging TechnologiesColin McInnesRoyal Academy of Engineering (RAE)02/08/2019ENG - Systems Power & Energy