Asteroid Affirmative

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Space Based Detection Key

Space detection methods key – fewer telescopes needed to effectively, accurately, and quickly discover NEO’s of all sizes

Bekey ‘07(Ivan Bekey is the president of Bekey Designs Inc. and former Director of Advanced Programs in the Office of Space Flight at NASA. “Extremely large yet very low weight and low cost space based telescopes for detection of 140 meter diameter asteroids at 5.7 AU, and obtaining 6 year warning times for 1 km diameter comets”. White Paper presented at the March 2007 Planetary Defense Conference at George Washington University in Washington D.C. April 16, 2007. TDA)

Asteroids smaller than ≈ 250 m size are difficult to detect and are very numerous, and can cause extensive and severe regional damage if not mitigated. The very large numbers of such asteroids demand fast search routines with large aperture telescopes, and much observing time will be needed. Larger ground telescope apertures have the advantage of increased search and detection distance, but the resultant narrower fields of view mean that many ground telescopes will be needed, preferably spread around the Earth and in both North and South hemispheres. These are large and expensive undertakings, and as astronomical instruments their observing time will have to be shared by NEO observers. As fundamentally, ground telescopes are generally limited to about 40-80 hours/month observation time due to daylight, seasons, clouds, moonlight, and night sky brightness, depending on location, exacerbating the pressure on observing time. Space telescopes, in contrast, can observe the sky for small asteroids full time, gaining a factor of 720/80 - 9 to 720/40 -18. Thus 9-18 fewer space telescopes of the same aperture will be needed--ideally only one. This space telescope can be placed in solar orbit at 1 AU or at the Sun-Earth L2 point where it will be permanently shadowed by the Earth. There it can continuously scan the sky up to about ± 150 degrees solid angle away from the Sun. Long-period comets ≈ 1 km size or larger are much less probable than asteroids to impact the Earth. However NEOs 10 km or greater are much more likely to be comets, and thus comets can be extremely destructive and must be taken seriously. They can have very low albedo and usually have no coma beyond the orbit of Jupiter. They generally arrive from the Oort cloud, and many are new apparitions for which there is no data. Their extremely eccentric trajectories make their velocities very large when they cross the earth’s orbit. Because of these factors they are very difficult to detect far away, and thus current discovery and warning times using ground telescopes are usually less than a year and frequently 1/2 year or less. Furthermore their outgassing and coma development as they approach the Sun makes precision epehemeris prediction problematical. Because of these difficulties long-period comets are usually placed into the “too hard” category and unfortunately ignored at this time.

Space Based Detection Key

Space Based detection methods empirically successful

Sommer 05 (Doctorate in Policy Analysis at the Pardee Rand Graduate School. “Astronomical Odds

A Policy Framework for the Cosmic Impact HazardPardee Rand Graduate School Dissertation Series. June 2005. EBSCOhost. TDA)

As a final note, over the years, different designs for space-based NEO survey telescopes have been proposed.73 There are advantages and disadvantages, as listed in Table 2.7, and uncertainties will be resolved only with the launch of an actual system.74 Although not specifically looking for NEOs, a space platform known as the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has been the most prolific comet discoverer in history, finding over 750 new comets since 1996.75

Detection – Adaptive Membrane Telescopes

Adaptive Membrane Telescopes blow regular space telescopes out of the water – lightweight, maintainable, and cool as the Fonz

Bekey ‘07(Ivan Bekey is the president of Bekey Designs Inc. and former Director of Advanced Programs in the Office of Space Flight at NASA. “Extremely large yet very low weight and low cost space based telescopes for detection of 140 meter diameter asteroids at 5.7 AU, and obtaining 6 year warning times for 1 km diameter comets”. White Paper presented at the March 2007 Planetary Defense Conference at George Washington University in Washington D.C. April 16, 2007. TDA)

Current space telescopes are powerful scientific tools free of atmospheric and diurnal limitations that have produced a wealth of scientific information and unforgettable images. But space telescopes are hideously expensive, a principal reason being that their optics and structures are high precision, heavy, and manpower intensive to develop. This is principally because they are built using ground telescopes as models—that is constructing and launching a monolithic device with final required precision which must resist launch stresses. As a result the large apertures required for long-period comet and small asteroid detection are seen as daunting, far term, and risky space programs which are not imaginable, less affordable. But this does not have to be so. We have to completely change the design and development paradigms, so as to make use of the space environment instead of fighting it as do conventional designs. This white paper addresses a means of accomplishing that. A new principle is used in the propose space telescope: Replace precision apertures and structures with information. This capitalizes on the fundamental attributes of space in which mass is expensive while information and its processing are lightweight and cheap . The following concept description follows funded feasibility studies performed by the author initially for NASA/NIAC and then in much greater detail and with 5 subcontractors for the NRO. To implement the principle we will use a membrane primary that is active over its entire surface, and is initially shapeless. This membrane will be limp and “Saran Wrap-like”, and untensioned. It will be folded like a blanket and launched . Once in final orbit it will unfold into an initially shapeless, though very roughly planar (± 1 meter) surface, and only then will it be actively shaped so as to attain the desired figure. The figure of this primary reflector will be set and maintained by closed loop control using software, and will form the first stage of a two-stage correction system, thus figure accuracies required can be nearly a millimeter. With respect to the usual major telescope truss, not even advanced conventional designs have yet thought it through all the way, since there is no need for any truss in space--telescope trusses are a carryover of earth-bound thinking. Since g forces do not have to be resisted in orbit there is no need to have a truss to hold the elements at precise separations, and precision stationkeeping can be used just as well instead, forming a virtual truss. Both the formation flying and the primary figure adjustment can be made responsive to outside disturbances, and closed loop correction control introduced. Thus the telescope’s separated parts and flimsy membrane primary (together with a second stage of correction) can be maintained in a configuration whose performance can be indistinguishable from that of a conventional telescope with a solid or segmented aperture and fixed precision truss. The functioning of the adaptive membrane is illustrated in Figure 4. The telescope consists of an unsupported and unstretched (not inflatable) adaptive piezoelectric bimorph film membrane, whose figure and surface accuracy are continuously corrected using an electron beam scanning its entire back surface. The beam causes charge to be deposited selectively which induces local bending of the piezo bimorph. The signals for the beam-induced charge density required at any location on the membrane are generated in response to a precision figure sensor which detects both gross and fine scale characteristics of the membrane surface, which are then turned into beam commands by a computer. This Adaptive Membrane technique is the heart of the new space telescope concept, which is described in principle, though not to scale, in Figure 5. There will be residual errors in the primary, caused by finite electron beam size, power limits, and metrology limits, not exceeding a fraction of a millimeter. These will be corrected by a second stage of correction, which is composed of a liquid crystal plate located in a separate focal assembly at a point in the optical train where a real image of the primary exists. This liquid crystal is driven by a voltage obtained from the figure sensor, which generates a 2-dimensional spatial distribution of the residual errors of the membrane surface after the adaptive piezoelectric correction loop has done all it can. This voltage causes a 2D distribution of the index of refraction across the liquid crystal, which in turn affects the speed of light though it, responsive to the residual errors of the primary. The aberrated light from the primary is thus corrected as it transits this liquid crystal, resulting in a phase-corrected coherent image. The net effect of the two stages of correction is to generate a near-diffraction limited image with a lightweight primary membrane that started initially only roughly flat and wrinkly. The complete space telescope concept using two stages of correction, with all


elements formation-flown rather than connected by trusses, is illustrated in figure 6, this time to scale, and using an f/10 primary as an example. The focal assembly is stationkept at the focal point of the primary, 250 m on its axis. The figure sensor is stationkept at the center of curvature of the primary, at 500 m. on axis. The focal plane is located at one end of the focal assembly, which accomplishes reimaging via small secondary and tertiary mirrors, and also contains the liquid crystal. The large f number of the spherical primary used in the example, together with aspheric design of the secondary and tertiary mirrors, results in vanishingly small spherical aberrations, astigmatism, and coma, and makes for a relatively flat primary which is easier to shape by the piezoelectric forces than if the f number were smaller, though smaller number primaries are also possible. This design does not look anything like a traditional space telescope but it functions exactly the same. Since the piezoelectric primary membrane must be perpetually shaded from sunlight to prevent temperature damage to the piezoelectric characteristics of the film, a plain opaque membrane sunshade of crude figure is interposed between the Sun and the primary and kept there if the system is in solar orbit. In operation all the telescope elements would be rotated and translated as an ensemble , maintaining the axial configuration of Figure 6, to point to the desired target sky region. Actually the best plan would be to limit most maneuvers of the primary membrane to only rotation, avoiding translational stresses and propellant, with all other elements of the telescope translating as well as rotating. Once the ensemble pointed in the right direction fine pointing control would be imposed, slaved to the image on the focal plane. After all dynamic perturbations damped down, observations could begin. Viewing objects within several degrees of the telescope axis would then be accomplished by moving only the small fast steering mirrors, without rotating or translating any other telescope components. Repointing to a different target area would be accomplished by rotating the entire ensemble of elements more slowly, and repeating the procedure.

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