Deflecting small asteroids using laser ablation: Deep space navigation and asteroid orbit control for LightTouch2 Mission

Massimo Vetrisano, Joao Branco, Joan-Pau Sanchez Cuartielles, Daniel Garcia Yarnoz, Massimiliano Vasile

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

4 Citations (Scopus)
112 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents a low-cost, low mass, mission design to successfully intercept and deflect a small and faint, 4 m in diameter asteroid. Intended to be launched after 2025, the laser-ablating mission, LightTouch2 will be used to deflect the orbit of the asteroid by at least 1 m/s. This will be achieved with a total mission lifetime of less than three years. Analysis includes the initial approach of the spacecraft, the operations of the laser at an optimal spacecraft-to-asteroid distance of 50 m and the relative orbit of the spacecraft that flies in formation with the asteroid. Analysis includes line-of-sight measurements with radiometric tracking from ground station to improve the trajectory estimate and observability of the spacecraft, collision avoidance and mapping strategies. The spacecraft will also need optimal discrete control. This is achieved by impulse-bit manoeuvres used to account for the perturbations caused by the resultant thrust on the asteroid, plume impingement, laser recoil and solar radiation pressure. The spacecraft controls its trajectory within a 1 m box from the reference trajectory to enable the laser to optimally focussing the laser beam. The proposed approach uses an unscented Kalman filter to estimate the relative spacecraft-asteroid position, velocity and perturbative acceleration.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2013
EventAIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference 2013 - Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Duration: 19 Aug 201322 Aug 2013


ConferenceAIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBoston, Massachusetts


  • near Earth objects
  • asteroid deflection
  • asteroid orbit control
  • LightTouch2 Mission
  • laser ablation
  • deep space manoeuvres


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