Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Private Sector, Space Intruder Detector

Rick Tumlinson at CSCA 2013 on March 7th
Asteroid mining company Deep Space Industries (DSI) didn't wait for the dust to settle after the unexpected impact of an asteroid over the Urals on Friday before issuing a press release reminding everyone that tracking near Earth objects is one of the things the firm is focused on.

As stated in the February 15th, 2013 press release titled "Russian Meteor Impact Shows the Need for a Sentry Line of Asteroid Inspection Spacecraft" on the DSI website:
Today’s impact in Russia and the near miss by asteroid 2012 DA14 should shock the world into creating a sentry line of spacecraft circling the Earth to intercept and evaluate incoming threats, Deep Space Industries proposed.
“The hundreds of people injured in northern Russia show it’s time to take action and no longer be passive about these threats,” said Rick Tumlinson, chairman of Deep Space Industries.
Deep Space Industries proposes establishing several sentry lines encircling Earth with small spacecraft able to dart after intruders to get close-in photos and data as they pass. Over time additional spacecraft able to grab samples for analysis on Earth would join the sentry lines.

As outlined in the February 16th, 2013 CBS News article "After dramatic meteor strike, Russians pick up pieces," over 1,200 people were injured by the shock wave and hundreds of building damaged from the explosion (estimated to be as strong as 20 Hiroshima atomic bombs), which occurred when a meteorite vaporized over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk around sunrise on Friday.

A February 15th, 2013 update on the NASA Asteroid and Comet Watch website titled "Russia Meteor Not Linked to Asteroid Flyby" estimated the size of the asteroid to be approximately 55 feet (17 meters) with an estimated mass of approximately 10,000 metric tons.

The February 15th, 2013 ABC World News article "Meteor explodes above Russian city; 1,200+ hurt" quoted NASA officials as stating that they "weren't tracking this meteor because it was so small."

The NASA Asteroid and Comet Watch website took pains to point out that the object which landed in Chelybinsk was totally unrelated to another asteroid which NASA did track.

However, NASA was tracking the close flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 which was estimated as being approximately the same size (50 meters) but much heavier (190,000 metric tons) according to the 2012 DA14 Goldstone Radar Observations Planning document from NASA Goldstone. This order of magnitude difference in mass between two objects of approximately the same dimensions suggests that there were major differences in structure and/or composition between the two objects. According to the DSI press release:
Not all asteroids are the same, and to be ready to deflect one that’s on a dangerous trajectory the world needs to know more about their structure and composition. Many may be solid but all photos so far have shown gravel and rock piles. A defense plan assuming the wrong type could make matters worse.
DSI isn't the only organization looking into tracking asteroids. According to the February 16th, 2013 UK Observer article "Scientists unveil new detectors in race to save Earth from next asteroid," a variety of public and private organizations have plans to develop techniques that can pinpoint relatively small but still potentially devastating meteoroids, comets and asteroids that threaten to strike Earth.

As outlined in the May 7th, 2012 blog post "Why not build Planetary Resources a NEOSSat," several existing Canadian satellites also possess the operational capabilities to contribute to these activities.

As for DSI CEO Tumlinson, he'll be making a presentation in Toronto, Ontario at the 2013 CSCA National Conference (CSCA 2013) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) in Toronto, Ontario on March 7th, along with Jim Keravala, the chief operating officer and co-founder of Shackleton Energy Company, Dr. Robert (Bob) Richards the CEO of Moon Express, plus over a dozen other speakers and an estimated 100 attendees.

They'll be discussing the technical, legal and financial aspects associated with commercial space resource utilization and the tracking of those resources.

The conversation should be an interesting one.


  1. Tumlinson and DSI have more rhetoric than money. Keravala and Shackleton are in the same situation.

  2. Rhetoric vs money ... This is so because DSI and other private companies are service organizations. They will build, service, consult, whatever, as long as someone else pays for it. They have ideas and they will do the work, just pay them.

    Mr Musk of SpaceX, after having invested some of his fortune, needed funding, guidance, and help from NASA to get Falcon-9 and Dragon ready for ISS. And of course, SpaceX will get paid for each launch under its Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. From this link, SpaceX is just another government contractor (for the moment) :

    Another perspective on fantasy thinking :

    There is nothing wrong with any of this. The issue is who is going to pay for all these exciting endeavours.

    Oh, wait, maybe the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs should fund this Sentry Line of Inspection/Defense, yah.


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