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Directed Energy Planetary Defense

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Philip Lubin
added 2 research items
Lasers are commonly used in high-precision measurement and profiling systems. Some laser measurement systems are based on interferometry principles, and others are based on active triangulation, depending on requirements of the application. This paper describes an active triangulation laser measurement system for a specific application wherein the relative position of two fixed, rigid mechanical components is to be measured dynamically with high precision in six degrees of freedom (DOF). Potential applications include optical systems with feedback to control for mechanical vibration, such as target acquisition devices with multiple focal planes. The method uses an array of several laser emitters mounted on one component. The lasers are directed at a reflective surface on the second component. The reflective surface consists of a piecewise-planar pattern such as a pyramid, or more generally a curved reflective surface such as a hyperbolic paraboloid. The reflected spots are sensed at 2-dimensional photodiode arrays on the emitter component. Changes in the relative position of the emitter component and reflective surface will shift the location of the reflected spots within photodiode arrays. Relative motion in any degree of freedom produces independent shifts in the reflected spot locations, allowing full six-DOF relative position determination between the two component positions. Response time of the sensor is limited by the read-out rate of the photodiode arrays. Algorithms are given for position determination with limits on uncertainty and sensitivity, based on laser and spot-sensor characteristics, and assuming regular surfaces. Additional uncertainty analysis is achievable for surface irregularities based on calibration data.
Lasers are commonly used in high-precision measurement and profiling systems. Some laser measurement systems are based on interferometry principles, and others are based on active triangulation, depending on requirements of the application. This paper describes an active triangulation laser measurement system for a specific application wherein the relative position of two fixed, rigid mechanical components is to be measured dynamically with high precision in six degrees of freedom (DOF). Potential applications include optical systems with feedback to control for mechanical vibration, such as target acquisition devices with multiple focal planes. The method uses an array of several laser emitters mounted on one component. The lasers are directed at a reflective surface on the second component. The reflective surface consists of a piecewise-planar pattern such as a pyramid, or more generally a curved reflective surface such as a hyperbolic paraboloid. The reflected spots are sensed at 2-dimensional photodiode arrays on the emitter component. Changes in the relative position of the emitter component and reflective surface will shift the location of the reflected spots within photodiode arrays. Relative motion in any degree of freedom produces independent shifts in the reflected spot locations, allowing full six-DOF relative position determination between the two component positions. Response time of the sensor is limited by the read-out rate of the photodiode arrays. Algorithms are given for position determination with limits on uncertainty and sensitivity, based on laser and spot-sensor characteristics, and assuming regular surfaces. Additional uncertainty analysis is achievable for surface irregularities based on calibration data.
Philip Lubin
added 10 research items
High power earth and orbital-based directed energy (DE) systems pose a potential hazard to Earth orbiting spacecraft. The use of very high power large aperture DE systems to propel spacecraft is being pursued as the only known method to achieve relativistic flight in our NASA Starlight and Breakthrough Starshot programs. In addition, other beamed power mission scenarios, such as orbital debris removal and our NASA program using DE for powering high performance ion engine missions, pose similar concerns. It is critical to quantify the probability and rates of interception of the DE beam with the approximately 2000 active Earth orbiting spacecraft. We have modeled the interception of the beam with satellites by using their orbital parameters and computing the likelihood of interception for many of the scenarios of the proposed systems we are working on. We are able to simulate both the absolute interception as well as the distance and angle from the beam to the spacecraft, and have modeled a number of scenarios to obtain general probabilities. We have found that the probability of any active satellite, including its orbital position uncertainty, intercepting our beam during any of our many mission scenarios is extremely low ($\approx10^{-4}$). The outcome of this work gives us the ability to predict when to energize the beam without intercept, as well as the capability to turn off the DE as needed for extended mission scenarios. As additional satellites are launched, our work can be readily extended to accommodate them by adding their orbital parameters to our database. Our work can also be used to predict intercept of astronomical adaptive optics guide-star lasers as well as any general laser use.
High power Earth and orbital-based directed energy (DE)systems pose a potential hazard to Earth orbiting spacecraft. The use of very high power, large aperture DE systems to propel spacecraft is being pursued as the only known, feasible method to achieve relativistic flight in our NASA Starlight and Breakthrough Starshot programs. In addition, other beamed power mission scenarios, such as orbital debris removal and our NASA program using DE for powering high performance ion engine missions, pose similar concerns. It is critical to quantify the probability and rates of interception of the DE beam with the approximately 2000 active Earth orbiting spacecraft. We have modeled the interception of the beam with satellites by using their orbital parameters and computing the likelihood of interception for many of the scenarios of the proposed systems we are working on. We are able to simulate both the absolute interception as well as the distance and angle from the beam to the spacecraft, and have modeled a number of scenarios to obtain general probabilities. We have established that the probability of beam interception of any active satellite, including its orbital position uncertainty, during any of the proposed mission scenarios is low (≈10 ⁻⁴ ). The outcome of this work gives us the ability to predict when to energize the beam without intercept, as well as the capability to turn off the DE as needed for extended mission scenarios. As additional satellites are launched, our work can be readily extended to accommodate them. Our work can also be used to predict interception of astronomical adaptive optics guide-star lasers as well as more general laser use.
Philip Lubin
added 2 research items
Long-period comets (LPCs) frequently transit the inner solar system, and like near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), pose a continued risk of impact with Earth. Unlike NEAs, LPCs follow nearly parabolic trajectories and approach from the distant outer solar system where they cannot be observed. An LPC on an Earth-impact trajectory is unlikely to be discovered more than a few years in advance of its arrival, even with significant advancements in sky survey detection capabilities, likely leaving insufficient time to develop and deliver an interception mission to deflect the comet. However, recent proposals have called for the development of one or more large ∼ 1 km laser arrays placed on or near Earth primarily as a means for photon propulsion of low-mass spacecraft at delta-v above what would be feasible by traditional chemical or ion propulsion methods. Such a laser array can also be directed to target and heat a threatening comet, sublimating its ices and activating jets of dust and vapor which alter the comet's trajectory in a manner similar to rocket propulsion. Simulations of directed energy comet deflection were previously developed from astrometric models of nongravitational orbital perturbations from solar heating, an analogous process that has been observed in numerous comets. These simulations are used together with the distribution of known LPC trajectories to evaluate the effect of an operational Earth-based laser array on the LPC impact risk.
Philip Lubin
added 3 research items
Current strategies for diverting threatening asteroids require dedicated operations for every individual object. We propose a stand-off, Earth-orbiting system capable of vaporizing the surface of asteroids as a futuristic but feasible approach to impact risk mitigation. We call the system DE-STAR (Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation). DE-STAR is a modular phased array of laser amplifiers, powered by solar photovoltaic panels. Lowcost development of test systems is possible with existing technology. Larger arrays could be tested in sub-orbital demonstrations, leading eventually to an orbiting system. Design requirements are established by seeking to vaporize the surface of an asteroid, with ejected material creating a reaction force to alter the asteroid's orbit. A proposed system goal would be to raise the surface spot temperature to <3,000K, evaporating all known substances. Engagement distance required for successful diversion depends on the asteroid's mass, composition and approach velocity. Distance to focus and desired surface spot temperature then determine laser array size. Volatile-laden objects (such as comets) ~100m wide and approaching at 5km/s could be diverted by initiating engagement at ~0.05AU, requiring a laser array of ~100m side length. Phased array configuration allows multiple beams, so a single DE-STAR of sufficient size would be capable of targeting several threats simultaneously. An orbiting DE-STAR could serve diverse scientific objectives, such as propulsion of kinetic asteroid interceptors or other interplanetary spacecraft. Vaporization of debris in Earth orbit could be accomplished with a ~10m array. Beyond the primary task of Earth defense, numerous functions are envisioned.
Asteroids that threaten Earth could be deflected from their orbits using laser directed energy or concentrated solar energy to vaporize the surface; the ejected plume would create a reaction thrust that pushes the object away from its collision course with Earth. One concern regarding directed energy deflection approaches is that asteroids rotate as they orbit the Sun. Asteroid rotation reduces the average thrust and changes the thrust vector imparting a time profile to the thrust. A directed energy system must deliver sufficient flux to evaporate surface material even when the asteroid is rotating. Required flux levels depend on surface material composition and albedo, thermal and bulk mechanical properties of the asteroid, and asteroid rotation rate. In the present work we present results of simulations for directed energy ejecta-plume asteroid threat mitigation. We use the observed distribution of asteroid rotational rates, along with a range of material and mechanical properties, as input to a thermal-physical model of plume generation. We calculate the expected thrust profile for rotating objects. Standoff directed energy schemes that deliver at least 10 MW/m2 generate significant thrust for all but the highest conceivable rotation rates.
Directed Energy (DE) systems offer the potential for true planetary defense from small to km class threats. Directed energy has evolved dramatically recently and is on an extremely rapid ascent technologically. It is now feasible to consider DE systems for threats from asteroids and comets. DE-STAR (Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploration) is a phased-array laser directed energy system intended for illumination, deflection and compositional analysis of asteroids [1]. It can be configured either as a stand-on or a distant stand-off system. A system of appropriate size would be capable of projecting a laser spot onto the surface of a distant asteroid with sufficient flux to heat a spot on the surface to approximately 3,000 K, adequate to vaporize solid rock. Mass ejection due to vaporization creates considerable reactionary thrust to divert the asteroid from its orbit. DESTARLITE is a smaller stand-on system that utilizes the same technology as the larger standoff system, but with a much smaller laser for a dedicated mission to a specific asteroid. DESTARLITE offers a very power and mass efficient approach to planetary defense. As an example, a DE-STARLITE system that fits within the mass and size constraints of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) system in a small portion of the SLS block 1 launch capability is capable of deflecting an Apophis class (325 m diameter) asteroid with sufficient warning. A DESTARLITE using the full SLS block 1 launch mass can deflect any known threat.
Isabella Johansson
added 4 research items
This paper presents the motivation behind and design of a directed energy planetary defense system that utilizes laser ablation of an asteroid to impart a deflecting force on the target. The proposed system is called DE-STARLITE for Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and ExploRation - LITE as it is a small, stand-on unit of a larger standoff DE-STAR system. Pursuant to the stand-on design, ion engines will propel the spacecraft from low-Earth orbit (LEO) to the near-Earth asteroid (NEA). During laser ablation, the asteroid itself becomes the "propellant"; thus a very modest spacecraft can deflect an asteroid much larger than would be possible with a system of similar mission mass using ion beam deflection (IBD) or a gravity tractor. DE-STARLITE is capable of deflecting an Apophis-class (325 m diameter) asteroid with a 15-year targeting time. The mission fits within the rough mission parameters of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) program in terms of mass and size and has much greater capability for planetary defense than current proposals and is readily scalable to the threat. It can deflect all known threats with sufficient warning.
We present results of optical simulations for a laser phased array directed energy system. The laser array consists of individual optical elements in a square or hexagonal array. In a multi-element array, the far-field beam pattern depends on both mechanical pointing stability and on phase relationships between individual elements. The simulation incorporates realistic pointing and phase errors. Pointing error components include systematic offsets to simulate manufacturing and assembly variations. Pointing also includes time-varying errors that simulate structural vibrations, informed from random vibration analysis of the mechanical design. Phase errors include systematic offsets, and time-varying errors due to both mechanical vibration and temperature variation in the fibers. The optical simulation is used to determine beam pattern and pointing jitter over a range of composite error inputs. Results are also presented for a 1 m aperture array with 10 kW total power, designed as a stand-off system on a dedicated asteroid diversion/capture mission that seeks to evaporate the surface of the target at a distance of beyond 10 km. Phase stability across the array of λ/10 is shown to provide beam control that is sufficient to vaporize the surface of a target at 10 km. The model is also a useful tool for characterizing performance for phase controller design in relation to beam formation and pointing.
Directed energy for planetary defense is now a viable option and is superior in many ways to other proposed technologies, being able to defend the Earth against all known threats. This paper presents basic ideas behind a directed energy planetary defense system that utilizes laser ablation of an asteroid to impart a deflecting force on the target. A conceptual philosophy called DE-STAR, which stands for Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation, is an orbiting stand-off system, which has been described in other papers. This paper describes a smaller, stand-on system known as DE-STARLITE as a reduced-scale version of DE-STAR. Both share the same basic heritage of a directed energy array that heats the surface of the target to the point of high surface vapor pressure that causes significant mass ejection thus forming an ejection plume of material from the target that acts as a rocket to deflect the object. This is generally classified as laser ablation. DE-STARLITE uses conventional propellant for launch to LEO and then ion engines to propel the spacecraft from LEO to the near-Earth asteroid (NEA). During laser ablation, the asteroid itself provides the propellant source material; thus a very modest spacecraft can deflect an asteroid much larger than would be possible with a system of similar mission mass using ion beam deflection (IBD) or a gravity tractor. DE- STARLITE is capable of deflecting an Apophis-class (325 m diameter) asteroid with a 1- to 15-year targeting time (laser on time) depending on the system design. The mission fits within the rough mission parameters of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) program in terms of mass and size. DE-STARLITE also has much greater capability for planetary defense than current proposals and is readily scalable to match the threat. It can deflect all known threats with sufficient warning.
Philip Lubin
added 3 research items
Laser ablation of a Near Earth Object (NEO) on a collision course with Earth produces a cloud of ejecta which exerts a thrust on the asteroid, deflecting it from its original trajectory. The DE-STAR system provides such a thrust by illuminating an Earth-targeting asteroid or comet from afar with a stand-off system consisting of a large phased-array laser in Earth orbit. A much smaller version of the same system called DE-STARLITE travels alongside the target, operating in a stand-on mode, slowly deflecting it over a long period. Such a stand-on system would also permit directing the thrust in any desired direction through careful positioning of the laser relative to the asteroid. We present orbital simulations comparing the effectiveness of both systems across a range of laser and asteroid parameters. Simulated parameters include magnitude, duration and, for the stand-on system, direction of the thrust, as well as the size and orbital characteristics of the target asteroid. These simulations indicate that deflection distance is, in general, proportional to the magnitude of thrust, proportional to the square of the laser on time, and inversely proportional to the mass. Furthermore, deflection distance shows strong dependence on thrust direction with optimal direction varying with the asteroid's orbital eccentricity. As one example, we consider a 325 m asteroid in an orbit of eccentricity e=0.2; given 15 years of warning, a force of just 2 N from a stand-on DE-STARLITE system is sufficient to deflect the asteroid by 2 Earth radii. We discuss numerous scenarios and discuss a practical implementation of such a system consistent with current launch vehicle capabilities.
Directed energy laser ablation at the surface of an asteroid or comet produces an ejection plume that will impart a thrust on the asteroid. This thrust can mitigate a threatened collision with the Earth. This technique uses the asteroid itself as the deflection propellant. The DE-STAR laser system is designed to produce a sufficiently intense spot on the surface of an asteroid to accomplish this in one of two operational modes. One is a complete “stand-off” mode where a large space based phased-array laser directed energy system can interdict asteroids at large distances allowing sufficient time to mitigate nearly all known threats. A much smaller version of the same system, called DE-STARLITE, can be used in a “stand-on” mode by taking a much smaller laser to the asteroid and slowly deflecting it over a sufficiently long period of time. Here we present orbital simulations for a range of near-Earth asteroid impact scenarios for both the stand-off and stand-on systems. Simulated orbital parameters include asteroid radius and composition, initial engagement time, total laser-on time and total energy delivered to target. The orbital simulations indicate that, for exposures that are less than an orbital time, the thrust required to divert an asteroid is generally inversely proportional to laser-on time, proportional to target mass and proportional to the desired miss distance. We present a detailed stand-on scenario, consistent with current dedicated mission capabilities, to show the potential for laser ablation to allow significant deflection of targets with small systems. As one example we analyze a DE-STARLITE mission scenario that is in the same mass and launch envelope as the proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) but using a multi kilowatt class laser array capable of deflecting a 325 m diameter asteroid with 2N of thrust for 15 years in a small fraction of even the smallest SLS block 1 launch vehicle configuration.
Laser ablation of a Near-Earth Object (NEO) on a collision course with Earth produces a cloud of ejecta which exerts a thrust on the NEO, deflecting it from its original trajectory. Ablation may be performed from afar by illuminating an Earth-targeting asteroid or comet with a stand-off "DE- STAR" system consisting of a large phased-array laser in Earth orbit. Alternatively, a much smaller stand-on "DE-STARLITE" system may travel alongside the target, slowly deflecting it from nearby over a long period. This paper presents orbital simulations comparing the effectiveness of both systems across a range of laser and NEO parameters. Simulated parameters include magnitude, duration and, for the stand-on system, direction of the thrust, as well as the type, size and orbital characteristics of the target NEO. These simulations indicate that deflection distance is approximately proportional to the magnitude of thrust and to the square of the duration of ablation, and is inversely proportional to the mass. Furthermore, deflection distance shows strong dependence on thrust direction with the optimal direction of thrust varying with the duration of laser activity. As one example, consider a typical 325 m asteroid: beginning 15 yr in advance, just 2 N of thrust from a ~20 kW stand-on DE-STARLITE system is sufficient to deflect the asteroid by 2 R_e. Numerous scenarios are discussed as is a practical implementation of such a system consistent with current launch vehicle capabilities.
Jonathan Madajian
added 7 research items
We report on laboratory studies of the effectiveness of directed energy planetary defense as a part of the DESTAR (Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation) program. DE-STAR [1][5][6] and DE-STARLITE [2][5][6] are directed energy "stand-off" and "stand-on" programs, respectively. These systems consist of a modular array of kilowatt-class lasers powered by photovoltaics, and are capable of heating a spot on the surface of an asteroid to the point of vaporization. Mass ejection, as a plume of evaporated material, creates a reactionary thrust capable of diverting the asteroid’s orbit. In a series of papers, we have developed a theoretical basis and described numerical simulations for determining the thrust produced by material evaporating from the surface of an asteroid [1][2][3][4][5][6]. In the DE-STAR concept, the asteroid itself is used as the deflection "propellant". This study presents results of experiments designed to measure the thrust created by evaporation from a laser directed energy spot. We constructed a vacuum chamber to simulate space conditions, and installed a torsion balance that holds an "asteroid" sample. The sample is illuminated with a fiber array laser with flux levels up to 60 MW/m2 which allows us to simulate a mission level flux but on a small scale. We use a separate laser as well as a position sensitive centroid detector to readout the angular motion of the torsion balance and can thus determine the thrust. We compare the measured thrust to the models. Our theoretical models indicate a coupling coefficient well in excess of 100 μN/Woptical, though we assume a more conservative value of 80 μN/Woptical and then degrade this with an optical "encircled energy" efficiency of 0.75 to 60 μN/Woptical in our deflection modeling. Our measurements discussed here yield about 45 μN/Wabsorbed as a reasonable lower limit to the thrust per optical watt absorbed.
Asteroids that threaten Earth could be deflected from their orbits using directed energy to vaporize the surface, as the ejected plume creates a reaction thrust that alters the asteroid's trajectory. In this situation, a critical issue is the rotation of the asteroid relative to the directed energy beam, as this will reduce the average thrust magnitude and modify the thrust direction. Flux levels required to evaporate surface material depend on the surface material composition, rotation rate, albedo, and thermal and bulk mechanical properties of the asteroid. The observed distribution of asteroid rotation rates is used, along with an estimated range of material and mechanical properties, as input to a 4D thermal-physical model to calculate the resultant thrust vector. The model uses a directed energy beam, striking the surface of a rotating sphere with specified material properties, beam profile, and rotation rate. The model calculates thermal changes in the sphere, including vaporization and mass ejection of the target material. The amount of vaporization integrated over the target is used to determine the thrust magnitude and the phase shift relative to the non-rotating case. As the object rotates beneath the beam, the energy spreads out, decreasing temperature and vaporization causing both a phase shift and magnitude decrease in the average thrust vector. This produces a 4D analytical model of the expected thrust profile for rotating objects.
Philip Lubin
added 3 research items
Asteroids and comets that cross Earth's orbit pose a credible risk of impact, with potentially severe disturbances to Earth and society. Numerous risk mitigation strategies have been described, most involving dedicated missions to a threatening object. We propose an orbital planetary defense system capable of heating the surface of potentially hazardous objects to the vaporization point as a feasible approach to impact risk mitigation. We call the system DE-STAR for Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation. DE-STAR is a modular phased array of kilowatt class lasers powered by photovoltaic's. Modular design allows for incremental development, test, and initial deployment, lowering cost, minimizing risk, and allowing for technological co-development, leading eventually to an orbiting structure that would be developed in stages with both technological and target milestones. The main objective of DE-STAR is to use the focused directed energy to raise the surface spot temperature to ~3,000K, allowing direct vaporization of all known substances. In the process of heating the surface ejecting evaporated material a large reaction force would alter the asteroid's orbit. The baseline system is a DE-STAR 3 or 4 (1-10km array) depending on the degree of protection desired. A DE-STAR 4 allows for asteroid engagement starting beyond 1AU with a spot temperature sufficient to completely evaporate up to 500-m diameter asteroids in one year. Small asteroids and comets can be diverted/evaporated with a DESTAR 2 (100m) while space debris is vaporized with a DE-STAR 1 (10m).