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Copyright joeshen 2007

When Rocks become Dangerous – Space Station Collision Response
By: Joseph Shen . 9 March 2007

        An important and integral part of maintaining the Space Station is to ensure that it actually stays up there. Because we’re also putting the space station in a place where the chances of getting hit by an asteroid are significantly higher (Lagrange Point 4 to be exact), we need to be able to prepare a defensive grid that will allow for situations, such as an asteroid piece colliding with the space station, from actually happening.

        The space station collision response isn’t just one contingency plan, but more of a system of tasks in case one plan fails, this includes (just being blunt):

  • 1. “Deflection” – Use of a propelled ballistic missile to divert an incoming asteroid or space object.
  • 2. “Diffusion” – Placing charges in specific places (such as the interior of the asteroid itself or on the edge) and then using a laser cannon to detonate the charges that would either deflect the asteroid or cause it to split (depending on where the charges are placed) the asteroid or space object.
  • 3. “Shifting” – Use of the “pulsejet” systems on the station’s outer hull to shift the placement of the space station to avoid the object.
  • 4. “Tug boating” – Use of space shuttles that would attach “anchors” to an incoming asteroid and slowly diverting the object from colliding with the space station.

        The use of these systems largely depends on the situation, but each situation can also be intertwined to have a greater probability, but we’ll get into that later. To begin to understand this “defensive grid”, first one has to understand all of the systems used.

        In order to maintain the stability of the space station, numerous “pulsejet” systems will be around the station in order to provide stability for the space station in the occurrence of an actual collision. This system, which uses a combination of pressurized air and gas mixture, will be able to sustain the impact of any collision and be able to propel the structure back to its original orbit (Beck). It can also be used for many other functions, including the control of the rotational speed and moving the space station around to provide easier access for landing shuttle.

        For the “Deflection” process, the use of a ballistic missile would come into effect. The idea is simple: By launching the rocket at a specific degree to the asteroid, it would be able to successfully change the course of the asteroid and the space station would avoid the collision. Use of a design similar to a scaled-down version of the ancient V2 rocket, combined with new technologies that would allow us to guide the rocket (be it laser guided or otherwise).

        For the “Diffusion” process, the use of a laser cannon is involved. Having the laser mounted on the center (where the zero gravity structure is), would give it the ability to rotate 360 degrees, and with the pulsejet system it would able to fire a laser in virtually all directions in a 3-D axis. The U.S. Army is already using laser cannons as a defense measurement should a ballistic missile be headed towards the United States (U.S. Army Mobile), and the Air Force unveiled a fleet of Boeing’s equipped with Airborne Laser Cannons as an added defense measurement (ABL YAL 1A Airborne Laser). The design of these Laser Cannons was to cause the circuit within’ the ballistic missile to overheat, thereby causing an internal malfunction and self-destruct while still in flight. So, from there the whole logistics behind the “Diffusion” response is simple: after the explosive charges are placed on or within’ the asteroid / flying object coming towards the space station, the laser would direct a concentrated beam at the asteroid, causing the charges to detonate, and either deflect or remove the threat of the asteroid colliding with the space station.


        I said earlier that all three systems could be intertwined, which is true. The pulsejet systems can rotate the space station to allow the mounted laser cannon to be able to fire in all directions, which would allow for the mining of asteroids to be easier, as the detonation of charges to blow up asteroids to smaller pieces possible and safer than using remote-controlled charges. The laser would also serve as the “painting” device for the ballistic missiles, so their laser guidance system would “lock-on” to the asteroid itself as well as the detonation of explosive charges, and the combination of these two defense systems would provide enough to safely divert an asteroid of any size or magnitude from the space station. Any recoil from the firing of the missiles can be easily countered by firing off the pulsejets. Should the need occur, the pulse jet systems would successfully be able to move away from the asteroid’s trajectory and safely let the asteroid pass through.

        A fourth collision response would be to tugboat the asteroid, slowing changing its axis of rotation and slowly over time change its rotation, which would cause its trajectory to change as well. Currently, NASA is working on blueprints to use this idea to divert an asteroid from colliding with the Earth in future (David). This response however, cannot be combined with the other three, and would only serve beneficial if we know about the asteroid in advance.

        Through the use of these response systems, we would be able to successfully avoid any collision of an asteroid, and be able to apply the use of the laser cannon to the industrial side of the Space Station; It’s a win-win situation for everybody.

Works Cited:
-"Anti-rocket laser cannon gets funding." 29 Oct 2003 3. 7 Mar 2007 .

- "ABL YAL 1A Airborne Laser, USA." Airforce Technology. 2007. 7 Mar 2007 .

- Beck, Eric. "All About Pulsejet Engines." Beck-Technologies. 2005. 8 Mar 2007 .

- David, Leonard. "Mission Possible: Asteroid Tugboat Backed for Trial Run." 15 Oct 2003 3. 08 Mar 2007 .

-Dungan, Tracy. Brothers Designs. 9 Mar 2007 .

- Kanipe, Jeff. "Astronomers hash out defense against asteroids." News Network 9 Mar 2007 3. 9 Mar 2007 .

- "U.S. Army Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser." Popular Mechanics Apr 2003 2. 8 Mar 2007 .

Copyright Joseph Shen 2007