Deflection of near-Earth asteroids by kinetic energy impacts from retrograde objects

C.R. McInnes

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91 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies of non-nuclear diversion of near Earth asteroids have largely ignored the use of pure kinetic energy impacts, partly due to apparent limits on impact speeds of 10-15 km s−1. Here, I will consider the use of a near-term solar sail to deliver an inert projectile onto a retrograde solar orbit, thus raising impact speeds to at least 60 km s−1. Such high-energy orbits increase the energy liberated during impact by a factor of 40 or more, while reducing the required projectile mass by at least 95%. This considerable reduction in projectile mass allows kilometre-sized asteroids to be diverted with current launch vehicles, near-term technologies and at a cost comparable to a modest deep space mission.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-590
Number of pages3
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • near earth asteroids
  • non-nuclear deflection
  • solar sailing
  • orbital mechanics


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