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Subject NASA Plans 'Armageddon' Spacecraft To Blast Asteroid With Nuclear Warheads
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Original Message [link to www.flightglobal.com]
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center has designed a nuclear-warhead-carrying spacecraft, to be launched by the US agency's proposed 's Ares V cargo launch vehicle, to deflect an asteroid that could threaten all life on Earth.

The 8.9m (29ft)-long "Cradle" spacecraft would carry six 1,500kg (3,300lb) missile-like interceptor vehicles that would carry one 1.2MT B83 nuclear warhead each, with a total mass of 11,035kg.

Launched by an Ares V, the spacecraft would leave low-Earth orbit using a 45,359kg liquid-oxygen/liquid-hydrogen fuelled "kick stage".

The spacecraft's target near-Earth object (NEO) is the Apophis asteroid, which will pass by the Earth within the orbit of the Moon in April 2029.

For the study, however, its orbit was changed to bring it into a "dead-centre" collision course with Earth and its mass was assumed to be 1,000,000kg. The spacecraft's possible launch dates were 2020 and 2021.

By the 2020s NASA concluded that "the nuclear interceptor option can deflect NEOs of [100-500m diameter] two years before impact, and larger NEOs with at least five years warning".

The Cradle would have solar arrays, radiators, a light detection and ranging (lidar) instrument, a set of wide and narrow field of view (W/NFOV) cameras for guidance, a reaction control system and an avionics and communications package.

Each interceptor vehicle, with a terminal rendezvous package (TRP), would have a hydrazine-fuelled engine, a nitrogen tetroxide reaction control system and a lidar, and W/NFOV cameras for guidance.

The first vehicle/TRP could be launched, for a stand-off detonation near the NEO, 5h before the last interceptor's release, or the six TRPs could arrive at 1h intervals where the Cradle is 100h from intercept.

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