Author Topic: Asteroid Redirect Mission to lay the technology foundations for deep space  (Read 39569 times)

Offline Robotbeat

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Additionally, the enhanced-mass technique can also be used as kinetic impact terminal defense against threats for which it's essentially impossible to detect, like comets. But it needs to be in place before, there's no way you'd have enough time if you waited until you could SEE the threat.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Online notsorandom

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The current estimates of the probability of a damaging impact are based on the historic impact record of Earth and the Moon as well as the catalog of known objects. This is based on real data and statistical rules. To use the Russian Roulette analogy is it better to see if the gun is unloaded for a small amount of money or to make a Kevlar hat using a significant potion of your budget?

Offline arachnitect

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If planetary defense isn't important enough to warrant a small chunk of the budget, maybe all the space boosters and science communicators should stop talking about it when they're out ginning up support for NASA among us lowly un-scientists.

Offline Robotbeat

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The current estimates of the probability of a damaging impact are based on the historic impact record of Earth and the Moon as well as the catalog of known objects. This is based on real data and statistical rules. To use the Russian Roulette analogy is it better to see if the gun is unloaded for a small amount of money or to make a Kevlar hat using a significant potion of your budget?
You don't understand. There are many objects whose impact probability cannot be totally ruled out because they make close passes of the Earth (or other objects) which can drastically alter their trajectory. We can know they will fly by, but it is not feasible to determine with certainty the exact new trajectory until either very near flyby or after it occurs.

Also, the demo is not a significant portion of NASA's budget at all. Over the timescales we're talking about here better part of a century), it's a tenth of a percent of NASA's budget for the whole robotic ARM. And when you consider that we already need to do this tech demo for Mars anyway, the actual cost is even less. In all likelihood, it would lead to greater awareness of the threat and thus more resources for detection as well (which is something NASA will do anyway, but this may encourage more).

And again, enhanced mass also can help deflect threats like comets that aren't even visible until it's almost too late (and would be basically too late if you didn't already have such a capability).
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Offline jg

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Pan-STARRS and ATLAS will get us much better statistics on impact probabilities and sizes over the next few years.  Even basic data like size distributions of Asteroids have had large unknowns and estimates have been very uncertain heretofore.

Offline arachnitect

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Pan-STARRS and ATLAS will get us much better statistics on impact probabilities and sizes over the next few years.  Even basic data like size distributions of Asteroids have had large unknowns and estimates have been very uncertain heretofore.

I was under the impression that many NEOs are invisible to ground based observatories, hence the need for something like Sentinel or NEOcam.

I'm sure this is at least an oversimplification, but is it true at any level?

Offline jg

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Before Pan-STARRS and ATLAS there were no ground scopes optimized for asteroid discovery.  Ergo the statistics have been poor as to the risk.  There are limitations on the ground scopes, such as asteroids not previously detected coming out of the Sun.  Doing better geographical dispersal is such telescopes would be a good idea and I believe both projects would like to do so, particularly to get better southern coverage and protection against gaps due to bad weather.

Note that due to the r squared rule, even small rocks get much brighter as they close in on Earth.

Interestingly, rocks come from pretty much any direction by the time they close in on Earth.

Offline jongoff

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Using ARM to test a gravity tractor is begging the question of the danger of asteroid impacts, it assumes that in the near future there will be one. According to Dr. Binzel the creator of the Torino Scale an asteroid impact which causes local destruction to an inhabited place happens on average of once every 10,000 years. Larger events happen much more rarely. If there is no threat there is no need to develop countermeasures.

I'm kind of skeptical of that number. Tunguska and Chelyabinsk were both close calls within the past 100 years.

Quote
ARM will cost at a minimum $1.25 billion and likely much more than that. For a small fraction of that a very intensive search for dangerous NEOs can be done. If that turns up anything bad then the government will effectively write a blank check to deal with it. NASA leadership has been talking about ARM for a while but only recently asked for money to conduct a search. Now they are saying that they don't even need to search because they have already picked the asteroids they want to target from the known catalog. ARM as it is being proposed now will not do the most simple, inexpensive, and important step of asteroid risk mitigation.

That's not correct. The ARM people publicly stated that while they have a few potential targets baselined, that they'd be continuing the search to try to find better targets, and that they'd only lock in the final target a year or so before launch. They've got a baseline that's interesting enough from an asteroid mining and science standpoint, but are still actively looking for more targets.

I agree that putting more funds into the search part makes sense for a ton of reasons, and have been on record advocating that for years. Both for planetary defense and for asteroid mining purposes, the more we know, the better. But you and several others (professor Binzel included) seem to magically think that canceling ARM is going to free up most of that money to go do something else. It won't. NASA still intends to do most of the expensive parts of ARM (a large SEP spacecraft, a flight mission, flying astronauts out to lunar space and doing simulated missions) even if the capture part is canceled. Canceling ARM is really going to only save a couple hundred million. While that could help with asteroid detection, that doesn't do anything for demonstrating planetary defense techniques or teaching us if asteroid mining is feasible--either of which are sufficiently interesting reasons for doing ARM.

Should they find a way to do ARM using public private partnerships to free up enough money to put more into serious asteroid detection? Of course! But acting as though the asteroid mining or the planetary defense characteristics don't matter is foolishness of the first order in my opinion.

~Jon

Offline jongoff

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Also, the demo is not a significant portion of NASA's budget at all.

To put it in perspective, if you canceled the part of ARM that NASA wouldn't be doing without ARM, it would free up something like 2-3 months of SLS budget. Canceling ARM and keeping SLS (when there aren't any useful missions for it within the next 20 years) is the definition of pennywise, pound foolish.

~Jon

Offline KelvinZero

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What portion of ARM is the gravity capture anyway? isn't it just an additional manoeuvre while holding the selected rock and some measurements?

Offline jongoff

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What portion of ARM is the gravity capture anyway? isn't it just an additional manoeuvre while holding the selected rock and some measurements?

Yeah. It adds about 6 months to the overall mission, and some fraction of the overall propellant load, so I don't know how much that equates to in added ops costs and prop costs.

~Jon

Offline Robotbeat

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If the propellant comes from contingency reserve (say, part of the uncertainty in rock size), it need not greatly increase fuel requirements.
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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ARM option B would test out a gravity tractor. As neat as that is what is the chance of devastating impact happening in the next few decades? I am not sure of the wisdom in developing a technology which might not be needed for millennia. Let me posit this though, if the threat of an asteroid impact causes real concern why not use the money to fund something like the B612 Foundation's Sentinel telescope so we could find all the potentially dangerous asteroids? If there is a rock heading at us the most pressing thing is to find it as soon as possible. Funding will materialize for all sorts of deflection strategies in short order.

In the run up to World War 2 the Royal Air Force (RAF) prepared to defend Britain from attack by enemy aircraft. Underground control rooms were built to connect the fighter aircraft - Spitfires and Hurricanes - to the string of coastal radar installations. These radars allowed sufficient time to scramble the fighters to intercept the incoming bombers. All 3 parts needed to work for a successful defence.

An ARM like spacecraft could be deployed to divert a dangerous incoming asteroid but the asteroid needs to be detected in time. In time is at least  2-3 years before impact.

Using the ARM mission times give in http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2015/04/asteroid-redirect-mission-path-mars
Diversion time 6 months (check same for real mission)
Flight launch to boulder collection 18 months
Scramble time (To be determined)
Total 6 + 18 + TBD = 24 months + TBD

To give Earth those 3 years warning a network of planetary defence telescopes on the Earth and satellites will be needed.

Congress is unlikely to allocate the money for the network's construction and operations until presented with the plans and costings. The ARM mission is a proof of concept that can be used to justify building the planetary defence telescopes.

Offline jongoff

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ARM option B would test out a gravity tractor. As neat as that is what is the chance of devastating impact happening in the next few decades? I am not sure of the wisdom in developing a technology which might not be needed for millennia. Let me posit this though, if the threat of an asteroid impact causes real concern why not use the money to fund something like the B612 Foundation's Sentinel telescope so we could find all the potentially dangerous asteroids? If there is a rock heading at us the most pressing thing is to find it as soon as possible. Funding will materialize for all sorts of deflection strategies in short order.

In the run up to World War 2 the Royal Air Force (RAF) prepared to defend Britain from attack by enemy aircraft. Underground control rooms were built to connect the fighter aircraft - Spitfires and Hurricanes - to the string of coastal radar installations. These radars allowed sufficient time to scramble the fighters to intercept the incoming bombers. All 3 parts needed to work for a successful defence.

An ARM like spacecraft could be deployed to divert a dangerous incoming asteroid but the asteroid needs to be detected in time. In time is at least  2-3 years before impact.

Using the ARM mission times give in http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2015/04/asteroid-redirect-mission-path-mars
Diversion time 6 months (check same for real mission)
Flight launch to boulder collection 18 months
Scramble time (To be determined)
Total 6 + 18 + TBD = 24 months + TBD

To give Earth those 3 years warning a network of planetary defence telescopes on the Earth and satellites will be needed.

Congress is unlikely to allocate the money for the network's construction and operations until presented with the plans and costings. The ARM mission is a proof of concept that can be used to justify building the planetary defence telescopes.

Andrew,

I agree with the general concept (that we need both detection and diversion capabilities demonstrated), though would quibble on the details.

I'm going to ping one of the authors on that Enhanced Gravity Tractor paper I just got forwarded to see if I can share it publicly. It provides a wealth of data on how Enhanced Gravity Tractors compare versus other concepts, and all the technical nuances needed to make it work.

~Jon

Offline Steam Chaser

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What would it take to add a materials exposure test to the ARM robotic spacecraft? NASA has done similar experiments in the past on the ISS, and is planning something similar on the X-37B:

http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-test-materials-to-fly-on-air-force-space-plane

The point of the ARM variant is that it would gather data for the deep space environment rather than LEO. The idea is that when the astronauts investigate the retrieved boulder, they could also grab the materials exposure experiment and return it to Earth for analysis.

Similarly, what would it take to add a solar wind gathering instrument, similar to the one used for NASA's Genesis Discovery mission, to the ARM? The samples from the Genesis mission were somewhat compromised because the return capsule crashed. Again, the idea is that the astronauts would retrieve the experiment while they investigate the retrieved boulder.

Not being a spacecraft engineer, I'm imagining these would be fairly simple additions to the mission, just sort of sitting there being exposed to the space environment, not using a lot of spacecraft resources. Reality is probably more complicated, though. Maybe they'd need to be shielded before reaching the asteroid or something like that. How would these additions compare to alternative enhancements to ARM like squeezing in additional instruments to study the asteroid while there in terms of complexity, usefulness, and cost?

Offline jongoff

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What would it take to add a materials exposure test to the ARM robotic spacecraft? NASA has done similar experiments in the past on the ISS, and is planning something similar on the X-37B:

http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-test-materials-to-fly-on-air-force-space-plane

The point of the ARM variant is that it would gather data for the deep space environment rather than LEO. The idea is that when the astronauts investigate the retrieved boulder, they could also grab the materials exposure experiment and return it to Earth for analysis.

Similarly, what would it take to add a solar wind gathering instrument, similar to the one used for NASA's Genesis Discovery mission, to the ARM? The samples from the Genesis mission were somewhat compromised because the return capsule crashed. Again, the idea is that the astronauts would retrieve the experiment while they investigate the retrieved boulder.

Not being a spacecraft engineer, I'm imagining these would be fairly simple additions to the mission, just sort of sitting there being exposed to the space environment, not using a lot of spacecraft resources. Reality is probably more complicated, though. Maybe they'd need to be shielded before reaching the asteroid or something like that. How would these additions compare to alternative enhancements to ARM like squeezing in additional instruments to study the asteroid while there in terms of complexity, usefulness, and cost?

NASA was asking about potential hitchhiker/hosted payloads, so this would be possible, but I agree you'd want to seal the samples before you landed on the asteroid, to make sure your samples weren't totally contaminated by the asteroid dust. Not sure if it makes sense, but as one of the only times where we have a vehicle go out into deep space for a few years, and then return in its entirety (not just a small reentry capsule), I hope it would be educational.

~Jon

Offline Steam Chaser

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I was checking Eric Berger's twitter account because of the Europa Clipper thread, and noticed the following:

"After spending time with @CongCulberson on Wednesday I am now less convinced the House cuts to NASA's Earth science budget will stick."

"Also got the sense that NASA's asteroid mission would not get hacked this year, at least in the House."

Offline Steam Chaser

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On the Future Planetary Exploration blog (I believe the author posts here on planetary science topics), I followed a link to this slide presentation: "Emerging Capabilities for the Next Mars Orbiter" by Whetsel, Zurek, and Lock:

http://mepag.nasa.gov/meeting/2015-02/09_Lock_Whetsel.pdf

NASA is looking into a Mars telecommunications orbiter, but it could add a lot of science capability to that mission.  One of the things they're evaluating is using high power SEP, which would give them the ability to deliver more mass to Mars and to have more orbit flexibility, and also more power for instruments and telecommunications.  They give an example of an ARM-derived orbiter which would allow them a 300kg payload and also a return to the Earth region after a several year mission (I speculate that this is for sample return).  That is just one example; they also cover the telecommunications role and MRO-like functionality (i.e. Mars remote sensing).

One reason I mention this is to show some ideas of operational uses of the ARM SEP technology demonstration. 

Another reason is to speculate.  With the seemingly low support for the ARM mission, and recent discussions of changing ARM to go to Mars (e.g.: to Phobos), I wonder if there will be a push to translate ARM into a Mars mission like the one described in the slide presentation, instead of having separate ARM and Mars telecommunications+ missions.  It might not be a good idea to combine a technology demonstration with an operational mission that depends on the technology like the telecom orbiter would depend on the SEP demo, but it seems like ARM is already doing that.  It's not easy to see how NASA would be able to afford adding both ARM and a new and capable Mars orbiter while missions like Europa Clipper are being added.

Offline jacqmans

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May 18, 2015
RELEASE 15-094
NASA Seeks Additional Information for Asteroid Redirect Mission Spacecraft

NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking ideas from American companies for a spacecraft design that could be used for both the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and a robotic satellite servicing mission in low-Earth orbit.

In the early-2020s NASA plans to launch the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which will use a robotic spacecraft to capture a large boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation's journey to Mars.

NASA also has been studying the "Restore-L" mission concept, during which a spacecraft would use dexterous robotic systems to grapple and refuel a government satellite in low-Earth orbit. Restore-L would bring to operational status capabilities needed for future commercial satellite servicing by demonstrating technologies and reducing risk.

"Today's call for ideas from our industry partners is another important milestone for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, a critical capability demonstration mission that's part of our stepping stone approach for sending American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s," said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. "As part of our acquisition strategy, we're asking for more information toward the ARM spacecraft concept and also on commonality with a notional robotic satellite servicing spacecraft."

The RFI is not a request for proposal or formal procurement and therefore is not a solicitation or commitment by the government. Deadline for submissions is 45 days after public posting of the RFI. The full RFI is available at:

http://www.nasa.gov/feature/arm-spacecraft-bus-request-for-information

Following its rendezvous and touchdown with the target asteroid, the uncrewed ARM spacecraft will deploy robotic arms to capture a large boulder from its surface. It then will begin a multi-year journey to redirect the boulder into orbit around the moon.

Throughout its mission, the ARM robotic spacecraft will test a number of capabilities needed for future human missions, including advanced Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP), a valuable capability that converts sunlight to electrical power through solar arrays and then uses the resulting power to propel charged atoms to move a spacecraft. This method of propulsion can move massive cargo very efficiently. While slower than conventional chemical rocket propulsion, SEP-powered spacecraft require significantly less propellant and fewer launches to support human exploration missions, which could reduce costs.

This RFI seeks spacecraft designs that may include taking advantage of Xenon capacity SEP, single or multiple component architectures and cost-sharing partnerships.

Future SEP-powered spacecraft could pre-position cargo or vehicles for future human missions into deep space, either awaiting crews at Mars or staged around the moon as a waypoint for expeditions to the Red Planet.

ARM's SEP-powered robotic spacecraft will test new trajectory and navigation techniques in deep space, working with the moon's gravity to place the asteroid in a stable lunar orbit called a distant retrograde orbit. This location is a suitable staging point for astronauts to rendezvous with a deep space habitat that will carry them to Mars.

Before the large asteroid boulder is moved to lunar orbit, NASA will use the opportunity to test planetary defense techniques to inform mitigation of potential asteroid impact threats in the future. The experience and knowledge acquired through this operation will help NASA develop options to move an asteroid off an Earth-impacting course, if and when that becomes necessary.

NASA's Near Earth Objects Program continues to implement new capabilities and upgrades to existing projects for detecting and cataloging asteroids. The agency also has engaged non-traditional partners and the public in the hunt for undetected asteroids through the NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge activities, including prize competitions. In March, the agency announced the release of a software application based on an algorithm created through a NASA challenge that has the potential to help increase the number of asteroid detections in collected sky images.

For more information about NASA's Asteroid Initiative, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative

For more information about NASA's robotic satellite servicing capabilities office, visit:

http://go.usa.gov/3kpV5

Offline MattMason

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May 18, 2015
RELEASE 15-094
NASA Seeks Additional Information for Asteroid Redirect Mission Spacecraft

NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking ideas from American companies for a spacecraft design that could be used for both the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and a robotic satellite servicing mission in low-Earth orbit.

In the early-2020s NASA plans to launch the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which will use a robotic spacecraft to capture a large boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation's journey to Mars.

NASA also has been studying the "Restore-L" mission concept, during which a spacecraft would use dexterous robotic systems to grapple and refuel a government satellite in low-Earth orbit. Restore-L would bring to operational status capabilities needed for future commercial satellite servicing by demonstrating technologies and reducing risk.

"Today's call for ideas from our industry partners is another important milestone for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, a critical capability demonstration mission that's part of our stepping stone approach for sending American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s," said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. "As part of our acquisition strategy, we're asking for more information toward the ARM spacecraft concept and also on commonality with a notional robotic satellite servicing spacecraft."

The RFI is not a request for proposal or formal procurement and therefore is not a solicitation or commitment by the government. Deadline for submissions is 45 days after public posting of the RFI. The full RFI is available at:

http://www.nasa.gov/feature/arm-spacecraft-bus-request-for-information

Following its rendezvous and touchdown with the target asteroid, the uncrewed ARM spacecraft will deploy robotic arms to capture a large boulder from its surface. It then will begin a multi-year journey to redirect the boulder into orbit around the moon.

Throughout its mission, the ARM robotic spacecraft will test a number of capabilities needed for future human missions, including advanced Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP), a valuable capability that converts sunlight to electrical power through solar arrays and then uses the resulting power to propel charged atoms to move a spacecraft. This method of propulsion can move massive cargo very efficiently. While slower than conventional chemical rocket propulsion, SEP-powered spacecraft require significantly less propellant and fewer launches to support human exploration missions, which could reduce costs.

This RFI seeks spacecraft designs that may include taking advantage of Xenon capacity SEP, single or multiple component architectures and cost-sharing partnerships.

Future SEP-powered spacecraft could pre-position cargo or vehicles for future human missions into deep space, either awaiting crews at Mars or staged around the moon as a waypoint for expeditions to the Red Planet.

ARM's SEP-powered robotic spacecraft will test new trajectory and navigation techniques in deep space, working with the moon's gravity to place the asteroid in a stable lunar orbit called a distant retrograde orbit. This location is a suitable staging point for astronauts to rendezvous with a deep space habitat that will carry them to Mars.

Before the large asteroid boulder is moved to lunar orbit, NASA will use the opportunity to test planetary defense techniques to inform mitigation of potential asteroid impact threats in the future. The experience and knowledge acquired through this operation will help NASA develop options to move an asteroid off an Earth-impacting course, if and when that becomes necessary.

NASA's Near Earth Objects Program continues to implement new capabilities and upgrades to existing projects for detecting and cataloging asteroids. The agency also has engaged non-traditional partners and the public in the hunt for undetected asteroids through the NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge activities, including prize competitions. In March, the agency announced the release of a software application based on an algorithm created through a NASA challenge that has the potential to help increase the number of asteroid detections in collected sky images.

For more information about NASA's Asteroid Initiative, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative

For more information about NASA's robotic satellite servicing capabilities office, visit:

http://go.usa.gov/3kpV5

This is a call-to-arms to our Teenaged Independent Rocket Forces as ever I've heard one. (Impulse Power!)

There's been so much technology utilized already for cargo and in development for HSF for ISS support that could get upscaled for near-BEO ARM, even robotically, faster than what I understand is woefully underdeveloped on the SLS side.

The notion even seems like those asteroid disaster movies. Lockheed sending a flotilla of angry-armed Jupiters. Several Falcon Heavy payloads combining into a BFAsteroidMover. ULA showing the young'uns how stuff gets done with a few gadgets "on loan" from their USAF work. Even Arianespace and Roscosmos would have a trick.

The question, as the oldest of these movies demonstrated when redirect isn't happening, "When Worlds Collide," is a matter of coordination of what resources are available and before redirect can't happen.
« Last Edit: 05/20/2015 07:36 PM by MattMason »
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