Number 19: 24/03/2002
A scientific publication by SGF and NEODyS

Special: the results of ESA's call for proposal

Mission: "Remote observations of NEOs from Space"

Description of the study :

The proposed mission is a space based observatory detecting and carrying out remote sensing and physical characterisation of all classes of NEOs (size, composition, surface roughness, etc.) and discovery of asteroids having orbits partly (Atens) or totally (IEOs) interior to Earth's orbit.

The study team

Alenia Spazio L. Bussolino (Study Manager)
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd A. Phipps (Study Manager)
Oss. Astronomico di Torino A.Cellino

Scientific objectives

"In this proposal, we have focused on the option concerning the development of a dedicated space-based NEO observatory. This kind of mission would be an ideal complement to ongoing ground-based activities, and should be aimed at obtaining some critical information that is very hardly and not efficiently obtainable using current facilities from the ground. This includes an extensive survey of the known NEOs in order to obtainin in a short time a satisfactory knowledge of some critical physical parameters like size, albedo, likely surface composition. At the same time, a dedicated satellite is expected to be an unvaluable tool for discovering those particular NEOs having orbits mostly or completely interior to the Earth's orbit, which can be extremely difficult to observe from the ground. This kind of concept is not new, and it has been already developed in a number of ESA documents, including the SISYPHOS report and the Spaceguard-1 proposal. However, here we want to go well beyond the above studies. In particular, we want to assess the real feasibility of previously proposed projects and mission concepts, and to explore fully new options in all respects (including the scientific payload, the whole spacecraft design, the possible orbital options, and the possible links with other independent missions).
An orbital observatory is aimed at obtaining information on some general characteristics of the NEO population as a whole, and seems to be particularly urgent, given the increasing gap existing between the current discovery rate of NEOs and the overall need of physically characterizing these objects, also in order to derive the inventory and size distribution of the whole population. This is an essential piece of information for assessing the real impact hazard, and a necessary step to better understanding the enemy, in order to develop reasonable mitigation strategies. Of course, this kind of mission would also be an ideal complement of an independent rendezvous mission devoted to obtain detailed physical and geologic parameters of some individual object. We should be aware that the NEO population is numerous and heterogeneous, and, roughly speaking, we are still in a stage in which information and data on the individual trees and the whole forest are both, critically needed."

from the article by Alberto Cellino (Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino), taken from Tumbling Stone's special issue Link to the full article


Project "Remote Observations of NEOs from Space" in the media:

ESA's GSP web site (10/03/2003): "Remote observations from Space" link

Tumbling Stone n.15 (25/07/2002): "Remote observations of NEOs from space" by Alberto Cellino link

About the Spaceguard-I proposal: (26/04/2000) "Next: Space-Based Telescopes for Asteroids?" by Michael Paine, from link

Downloads (click on the images to download ):

Image: Project logo
credits: Alenia
Image: a 3d simulation of the telescope - credits: Alenia