An international detection mechanism for near-earth objects

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Benediktov, 4-13-2013 - Kirill Benediktov, Writer and member of the editorial board of the website Terra America; "The Asteroid-Comet Danger and Planetary Defense — A View from Russia," The International Schiller Institute,
It should be noted that Russia definitely has something to offer in the creation of a global system of planetary defense. I am referring mainly to the Citadel system, developed at Lavochkin (Figure 9). This system was worked out “on paper” more than a dozen years ago; it was assumed then that it would take no more than 7-8 years to implement the hardware. The political decision to create the Citadel Planetary Defense System (PDS) was not made at that time, however, perhaps because it would have required effective cooperation among different countries and space agencies.
The Citadel PDS is a complex, layered system, but with fairly simple basic elements. Moreover, all its major elements (or their prototypes) were already developed in the Soviet Union.
These include many types of rocket and space technology, nuclear weapons, means of communication, navigation, and control, etc. Now we have a unique opportunity to use these tools, many of which were developed for military purposes, not for destruction, but to protect humanity from dangerous celestial bodies.
To prevent a collision of dangerous celestial bodies with Earth, the plan is to use interception, based on the infrastructure for space flights (space launch complexes, means of control, etc.). It will use, inclusively, special reconnaissance satellites and interceptor spacecraft capable of acting upon the dangerous celestial bodies.
Reconnaissance spacecraft are a small class of apparatuses, such as the American Clementine, created on the basis of SDI technology. The light weight of the reconnaissance spacecraft will allow them to accelerate to high speed and thus reach a dangerous celestial body faster than a heavy interceptor. During the flight to the object, they ascertain its characteristics and transfer the data to ground control, to refine the interception plan and its effect on the dangerous space body. After that, the necessary commands are communicated to the interceptor spacecraft, which maneuvers closer to the object and impacts it for the purpose of deflecting it from its Earth-bound trajectory or destroying it. Experience acquired during efforts to create missile defense may be useful for this. Kinetic impact or a nuclear explosion will be used against the dangerous object.
It is proposed that the basis of the planetary defense system will be the Citadel-1 operational reaction echelon, intended for protection against objects of less than 100 m in diameter—the type that most often collide with Earth. Due to their small size, their detection will be possible in the range of several days to several months before collision. This places severe restrictions on the timing to ready the interceptors, primarily the launch vehicles.
A Launch Vehicle Available
Currently these requirements are met by the Russian-Ukrainian launch vehicle (LV) Dnepr (a conversion of the RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missile, code-named SS-18 by NATO) and the Zenit LV. The time required for preparing to launchfrom a few minutes with the Dnepr to 1.5 hours with the Zenitmakes them the only ones in the world that could be used in the operational reaction echelon.
The Russian-made launch vehicles have quite large capacities: if an interceptor is launched using the Zenit LV, the mass of a nuclear device delivered to the asteroid can be about 1,500 kg. The power of such a nuclear device would be no less than 1.5 megatons, which could destroy a stony asteroid [S-type asteroid] with a diameter of several hundred meters. If several blocks were docked in Earth orbit, the power of the nuclear device, and therefore the size of object to be destroyed, could be substantially increased.
Initially it was assumed that the basic spacecraft for creating reconnaissance satellites and interceptors could be vehicles such as the Mars-96 and Phobos-Grunt, developed at the Lavochkin bureau. However, quite a number of failures have plagued vehicles made by Lavochkin, significantly reducing the probability that the Citadel system will be built by the Russian space industry alone. Probably the best option would be combined missions, whereby Russia would provide the launch vehicles, and the spacecraft would be built by NASA and the ESA.
Interception of large asteroids and comets at great distances from the Earth will require implementation of a long-term response echelon, comparable to the function of the operational reaction echelon. There will, however, be important differences. In particular, these means of interception will generally not destroy dangerous space objects, but rather deflect them from a collision course with the Earth. Therefore, depending on the characteristics of the dangerous celestial body, its orbit, and the time available, not only nuclear devices but also others could be used to deflect it—kinetic (“Rods from God”), reactive, “space billiards,” etc. For this we will need to have large payloads of various types for assembly in Earth orbit of heavy interceptor satellites with multi-stage propulsion units.
Thus, to deflect cosmic threats will require resources from the whole world, and especially from countries possessing space and nuclear technologies (Russia, the United States, Western Europe, China, Japan, India).
There will obviously have to be a continuous cycle of project design and other work. This could be done on the “green wave” relay principle, whereby the results of work initiated in Europe, for example, would be continued in the Americas (after transmission over computer networks), followed by Asia, etc.
Of course, for such work to be quickly organized, mankind must prepare beforehand a kind of Mobilization Plan for the Defense of Earth, in case a threatening situation arises.
A base in resources, science, and technology will not ensure success in the fight against threats from space, unless we develop and implement a planet-wide strategy of indirect actions to avert threats. This shifts the problem of defense against asteroid and comet threats from the purely scientific domain to the political. We need to develop an effective strategy for systemic prevention/deflection of threats to the very existence of civilization on Earth. Otherwise, humanity will continue to play Russian roulette with the Cosmos, and in this game, as we all know, you cannot win every time.

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