A smart cloud approach to asteroid deflection

Alison Gibbings, Massimiliano Vasile

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

6 Citations (Scopus)
86 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents a novel idea for the successful deflection of asteroids. Adapted initially from the kinematic impactor approach, this new concept – Smart Cloud – combines the relative benefits of the ion beam shepard in
providing a large cloud of small particles for the effective deflection and mitigation of asteroids. The cloud consists of a large number of incredibly low mass nano-size spacecraft that are released at a high relative velocity. Upon
impact with the asteroid the smart cloud is shown to be highly effective in creating a large artificial drag, and therefore an associated thrust, onto the asteroid. The technique is also advantageous in avoiding the catastrophic
fragmentation of the asteroid which might otherwise occur with the impact of a monolithic spacecraft and/or projectile. The impact energy of each colliding particle is significantly lower than the impact energy for disruption. For analysis the smart cloud approach has been compared to other methods of potential deflection. This includes the low-thrust tug and the ion beam shepard. The paper will show that when the total deflection mass of the smart cloud is equivalent to the ion beam shepard approach, is has the advantage of significantly reducing the system mass and complexity of the spacecraft design. It is also superior in the deflection and mitigation of deep crossing asteroids.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2011
Event62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011 - Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 3 Oct 20117 Oct 2011


Conference62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011
Country/TerritorySouth Africa
CityCape Town


  • Smart Cloud
  • asteroid deflection
  • ion beam shepard
  • nano-size spacecraft
  • low-thrust propulsion
  • asteroid mitigation


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