GMV is working to defend the planet from asteroid thread

This development is part of the European Commission’s NEOShield-2 project, which aims to build the necessary technology for deflecting any asteroids likely to strike the Earth

GMV is currently working on several planetary-defense projects

The technology multinational GMV is currently actively participating in the European Commission’s asteroid-strike planetary defense project, NEOShield-2. This 4.2- million-euro project, which kicked off back in 2015, is an EU H2020 R&D initiative primed by Airbus Defense and Space GmbH and involving 11 other European firms.

NEOShield-2 aims to develop the necessary space-mission technology to divert threatening asteroids included on ESA’s risk list. The project also studies how to measure deviation attempts with precision and how to carry out in-situ analyses. Studies are now being made of astronomical observations, modeling, simulations and the physical characterization of near earth objects (NEOs) in order to gain a better understanding of their physical properties. Lastly, work is underway on drawing up a European strategy for future mission-associated research activities.

As part of the project GMV has taken on two main tasks:

- Development of the autonomous guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system based on artificial vision for landing the spacecraft on the asteroid, collecting samples weighing at least 30 grams and returning them to earth. This type of mission is crucial for accurately studying the asteroid features before deflecting it.

- Develop and run testbeds for ground validation of the NEOShield-2 consortium’s 3 GNC systems.

To do so GMV is using two laboratories in its Madrid head office for ground simulation of space-scenario conditions and real time stimulation of the spacecraft’s onboard computers and sensors. The optical navigation laboratory is stimulating the onboard camera (used as the main sensor for estimating the probe’s position with respect to the asteroid) by means of a screen showing images representative of the asteroid.

In the Advanced Robotic Testbed platform-art© GMV stimulates the camera and the laser altimeter (another sensor used) by means of the asteroid mockup, accurately reproducing the spacecraft landing trajectory with a robotic arm (Figure 2).

The importance of studying asteroids

Among the near earth objects (NEOs) discovered to date there are over 1700 asteroids considered to be dangerous. To raise public awareness of this very real threat, an International Asteroid Day is being held on 30 June every year since 2015. This date was chosen to commemorate the 1908 impact of the Tunguska asteroid, which devastated a huge area of Russia’s Siberian tundra.

It is now crucial for our society to understand the real threat posed to our planet by asteroid strike, especially given its increasing communications and technology dependence. We urgently need to come up with a remedy for this threat.

GMV and planetary defense

Planetary defense calls for the development of technologies such as guidance, navigation and control of spacecraft in the vicinity of asteroids. This allows us to carry out missions to study the characteristics of asteroids and deviate them by impact if needed.

GMV has been actively working on projects of this type for years now. AIM (Asteroid Impact Mission), as part of the AIDA program (Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment), aims to study the effects of the impact of the NASA’s DART probe on Dydimoon asteroid, to demonstrate new optical communication technologies in space as well as to characterize the internal and surface structure of Didymos and its moon; FCS ATOMIC (Flight Control System Assessment Toolbox for Optimal Mission Cost and Performance) is a GMV-led initiative that sets out to establish a real framework for a Flight Control System (FCS) made up by FDS and GNC systems plus their corresponding interfaces to weigh up the feasibility of future missions. Last but not least, TAIM (Asteroid Impact Mission Thermal Infrared Imager) is the name given to a study focusing on the development of a thermal imaging camera to capture images in the infrared spectrum for ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM).

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