Published in Optical Engineering, Volume 53, Issue 2, February 18, 2014.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1117/1.OE.53.2.025103.
Asteroids and comets that cross Earth’s orbit pose a credible risk of impact, with potentially severe disturbances to Earth and society. We propose an orbital planetary defense system capable of heating the surface of potentially hazardous objects to the vaporization point as a feasible approach to impact risk mitigation. We call the system DE-STAR, for Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploration. The DESTAR is a modular-phased array of kilowatt class lasers powered by photovoltaics. Modular design allows for incremental development, minimizing risk, and allowing for technological codevelopment. An orbiting structure would be developed in stages. The main objective of the DE-STAR is to use focused directed energy to raise the surface spot temperature to ∼3000 K, sufficient to vaporize all known substances. Ejection of evaporated material creates a large reaction force that would alter an asteroid’s orbit. The baseline system is a DESTAR 3 or 4 (1- to 10-km array) depending on the degree of protection desired. A DE-STAR 4 allows initial engagement beyond 1 AU with a spot temperature sufficient to completely evaporate up to 500-m diameter asteroids in 1 year. Small objects can be diverted with a DE-STAR 2 (100 m) while space debris is vaporized with a DE-STAR 1 (10 m).
Statistics and Probability
Number of Pages
One print or electronic copy may be made for personal use only. Systematic reproduction and distribution, duplication of any material in this paper for a fee or for commercial purposes, or modification of the content of the paper are prohibited.