Light-touch2: a laser-based solution for the deflection, manipulation and exploitation of small asteroids

Massimiliano Vasile, Massimo Vetrisano, Alison Gibbings, Daniel Garcia Yarnoz, Joan-Pau Sanchez Cuartielles, John-Mark Hopkins, David Burns, Colin McInnes, Camilla Colombo, Joao Branco, Alastair Wayman, Steven Eckersley

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This paper presents the preliminary mission and system analysis of a small-scale, light-weight system for the deflection, manipulation and exploitation of small size asteroids. The system proposed in this paper, called Light-Touch2, uses lasers to ablate the surface of an asteroid and induce a low thrust modification of its orbit. The system is applied to the deflection of a small size asteroid, 2-4 m in diameter, 130 tons in mass. It will be demonstrated that a laser system powered by conventional solar arrays can produce enough thrust to change the velocity of the asteroid by 1 m/s in less than 3 years. The current mission and system design to implement the Light-Touch2 concept envisage the use of a small class spacecraft, called AdAM (Asteroid Ablation Mission), which will fly in formation with the asteroid and apply laser ablation for a suitably long time. In the paper, the Light-Touch2 concept is compared against other known contactless deflection systems. Assessed qualities include momentum coupling and mass efficiency. The system and mission analysis will also be complemented by navigation analysis. A combination of ground-based and onboard optical measurements will be used to provide the required accuracy to fly in formation with the asteroid and to measure the deflection. The paper will therefore present the preliminary spacecraft system analysis and the preliminary transfer and navigation analysis.
Original languageEnglish
PagesPaper IAA-PDC13-04-22
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2013
EventIAA Planetary Defense Conference - Flagstaff, United States
Duration: 15 Apr 201319 May 2013


ConferenceIAA Planetary Defense Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • asteroid deflection
  • asteroid exploitation
  • asteroid tracking and deflection
  • laser ablation
  • proximity operations


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