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KSC Planetary Defense Coordination Division - An Asteroid Day Challenge!

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KSC Planetary Defense Coordination Division

Project Soteria

Imagine the sudden discovery of a large asteroid on direct collision with Earth, and less than a year before impact?  We don’t have the opportunity to use low thrust ion engines or lasers over a long period, nor to transport all of the gas propellant to the asteroid, we need to deploy quickly and nimbly to get to the asteroid in time and have enough thrust and propellant to deflect the asteroid just enough to avoid impact with Earth.  


A craft with a nuclear thermal propulsion engine, that pushes the asteroid onto a new trajectory.  To reduce costs and time to deploy, the craft will avoid carrying a huge amount of propellant, and will instead continuously mine the asteroid for propellant while under thrust. 


Design Notes:


The craft will use a NERVA, nuclear thermal propulsion engine, and hydrogen as a propellant.  Solar power, rather than a nuclear reactor, will be used to provide additional energy for running the mining and refining processes - using the lighter solar panels will reduce the craft overall mass.

The availability of hydrogen on the asteroid may not be known prior and there would need to be studies of asteroids to determine if they would have enough suitable propellant, such as the OSIRIS_REx mission to asteroid Bennu.  A probe will be sent with the ship to investigate the asteroid chemistry, for finding a suitable reservoir of potential hydrogen compounds near the asteroids surface.  A converter is requires to turn hydrogen compounds to pure H2 , and may be set to alternative modes of refining method depending on the asteroid chemistry.  The craft may need to mine the asteroid at different locations, filling it’s tanks and repositioning to thrust in the correct direction through the asteroid’s COM.

The craft will be built and fully tested, ready to deploy immediately when the threat appears, and launched to low orbit. The craft will be rapidly assembled in LEO with at least one or perhaps several additional launches, adding sufficient LH2 propellant to achieve a rendezvous with the asteroid.  Each launch will be aboard the next available launch vehicle, with the idea of using popular commercial rockets that are potentially on hand, e.g. SpaceX Falcon 9, ULA Atlas V or Vulcan, ESA Ariane 6, Chinese Long March 7, or Russian Proton -M. 

The craft must be capable of at least 3500 m/s and potentially much more than 10,000 m/s of deltaV in order to reach the asteroid with weeks or months of launch.  To achieve this the engines and mining equipment must be as light as possible, and carry large amounts of LH2 propellant.  It is assumed that it will arrive at the asteroid with very little remaining propellant, and will be reliant on mining and refining suitable fuel from the asteroid.

Once at the asteroid, the craft will need to offer a continuous thrust of around 5 kN for days or even weeks depending on the size of the asteroid and proximity to Earth.  The craft will attach to the asteroid with a spike and direct thrust toward the asteroids center of mass (COM).  Pads and legs will be used to stop the craft pushing deeper into the asteroid and becoming wedged.  These legs can be used to “gimbal” the craft to allow asteroid rotation and so steering.  The legs/pads will also be used to push the craft free when the task of asteroid deflection is completed, or if the craft needs to reposition to mine a fresh ore field.

The ship will be autonomous by default, as it is unlikely that the launch for a human rated space craft would be feasible on a short time frame. The mission would be dangerous for humans, as long periods in deep space would result in exposure to dangerous radiation.  Also ensuring the safe return to the Earth, as well as adding life support logistics, would greatly increase the complexity and cost of the mission.  The downside of an autonomous mission is that due to time lags due to distance and speed of light advanced AI coded robotics will be required to pilot the craft and the science probes.

The craft will carry a range of science experiments, transmitting data to Earth, and also attempt to bring samples of the asteroid back to Earth (assuming Earth survives).  Suitable robotic equipment will be used to collect the samples, and a container that is capable of surviving high speed atmospheric entry will be included.

Multiple craft may be built, and a version could be sent to an asteroid as a purely science mission to verify asteroid chemistry and test mining and refining equipment.  Potentially humans could be sent too.

The craft includes:

  • NERVA- Neptune nuclear powered engine:  67kN thrust (Vac)
  • LH2 fuel tank and docking adapters for add-on tanks, cryogenically cooled, solar powered
  • Mining and refining unit, converts ore to LH2, solar powered
  • 4 x Drills, extracts ore from the surface, with heat dissipation panels
  • Thermal resistant service module, containing science equipment for return to Earth
  • Communications antenna and onboard computers
  • Adjustable legs and surface pads , and anchor

Soteria modular upgrades

Launch Type Payload Vehicle Launch Cost dV (m/s)
1 Craft 15.9 tons Atlas V 542 $153 M 660
2 LH2  13.1 tons Atlas V 521 $123 M 3779
3 LH2  13.1 tons Atlas V 521 $123 M 5729
4 LH2  13.1 tons Atlas V 521 $123 M 7025
5 LH2  13.1 tons Atlas V 521 $123 M 7967
6 LH2  13.1 tons Atlas V 521 $123 M 8669
7 LH2  13.1 tons Atlas V 521 $123 M 9233
8 LH2  13.1 tons Atlas V 521 $123 M 9684
9 LH2  13.1 tons Atlas V 521 $123 M 10724


The voyage of the Soteria, Saviour of Gaia:

Simulates rendezvous with a near Earth orbit asteroid, with a mass similar to the Tunguska comet (560, 000 tons)

Mission notes:


3 launches, assembled craft has a dV = 5729 m/s
Required deflection with 170 days prior to Earth encounter = 1.1 m/s
Deflection time calculation, from Newtons Second Law:

F=m * dV/t  [where dV = 1.1m/s]

t= vm/F = 1.1 (m/s) * 560,000,000 (kg) /[0.065*67000 (N) ]

              = 141,446 s

              = 39 hours  (1.6 days) ... so potentially could effectively move an asteroid 10-100 times bigger. (e.g. Apophis or Bennu)

This assumes continuous thrust while mining continuously from a single ore field.  In the case that ore is rare on the asteroid surface, the craft may need to reposition and mine at several locations, and so require significantly more time to complete the deflection.

Mods used:

  • ReStock and ReStock Plus
  • Kerbal Atomics
  • Tweakscale
  • Visuals: EVE and Scatterer
  • Control: Mechjeb, Kerbal Engineer, Trajectories
Edited by jinnantonix
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hmmmm 13 minutes for 1 5 minute video whyyyyy

i have spent DAYS making this including an entire OTHER one i just scrapped everything except for my little title card together today in about 5 hours yall BETTER appreciate it

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34 minutes ago, Souptime said:

Jeez exporting this guy is gonna take a WHILE



Restock Plus




9 minutes ago, Souptime said:

hmmmm 13 minutes for 1 5 minute video whyyyyy

i have spent DAYS making this including an entire OTHER one i just scrapped everything except for my little title card together today in about 5 hours yall BETTER appreciate it

it is here.

All custom music i made baby that how i roll :cool:

fun fact soter was like greek for savior or smth


oh yeah the reason i used hyperedit was bc i didnt know that those ion engines used so much EC and the solar panels gave so little i hope that doesnt take me off the list

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My submission for the project, I hope you enjoy it.

You might have been confused about what happened after the asteroid was thrown, as I was. What had happened was that I had neglected to set the control point to the A.Y.E's probe core and was trying to target the mock asteroid (named "aye payload small") when I was actually in control of the mock asteroid. That is also why you might have noticed some confusion trying to get it to point prograde.




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This is my submission to this Asteroid Day Challenge

I made a probe that will move the asteroid that is on a collision course to Kerbin. The probe is using a grabbing unit and an inflatable container to make the asteroid stick to the craft.

Mainly visual mods but also mods like the Near Future series and Tweakscale.


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On 6/26/2021 at 3:04 AM, Souptime said:


it is here.

All custom music i made baby that how i roll :cool:

fun fact soter was like greek for savior or smth


oh yeah the reason i used hyperedit was bc i didnt know that those ion engines used so much EC and the solar panels gave so little i hope that doesnt take me off the list

Right there,  G studios! (Well technically its my friends account, since i dont have a YT he let me upload it there)

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Maverick Space Exploration
Planetary Extinction Prevention Project


Asteroid Redirection by Ion Drive (ASTRID)

An Asteroid has been spotted by our Asteroid Reconnaissance Infrared Telescope.
The calculated orbit is dangerously close to Kerbin with a high chance to hit the planet in about 110 days.
We begin to roll out our new ASTRID spacecraft on top of a newly developed orbital launch vehicle.

ASTRID Spacecraft:



The spacecraft uses three IX-6315 “Dawn” Electric Propulsion System as propulsion.
The three OX-10C Photovoltaic Panels power the whole electric system including the Ion drives. It uses an Advanced Grabbing Unit Jr. to grab the asteroid.
As soon as the spacecraft has reached and grabbed the asteroid it uses the three Ion drives to change the orbit of the asteroid. The goal is to bring the asteroid outside of Mun’s orbit.


OLV-1 Rocket:



The new orbital launch vehicle has a reusable first stage with a Kerbodyne KE-1 “Mastodon” Liquid Fuel Engine. After the separation, the stage will extend the A.I.R.B.R.A.K.E.S. to slow down and steer the vehicle in the atmosphere and the engines will do an entry burn. The lower A.I.R.B.R.A.K.E.S. are reinforced to support the weight of the rocket and can be extended to serve as landing legs. When close to the ground the engines light again for the landing burn.

The second stage uses a RE-J10 “Wolfhound” Liquid Fuel Engine for Low Kerbin Orbit insertion and to set the spacecraft on a trajectory that will bring it to the asteroid. The fairings jettison and the ASTRID module will now deploy its photovoltaic panels to produce its own electrical energy. After separation it will perform a deorbit burn and coast back to Kerbin to splash down in an ocean.

The ASTRID (ASTeroid Redirection by Ion Drive) spacecraft will then continue its trip to the asteroid. Shortly after second stage separation, ASTRID will rotate the four ion drives to the correct position. The ion drives are mounted on a 90° hinge and a 360° rotatable servo. This removes the necessity of prograde and retrograde thrusters. For smaller lateral corrections, the spacecraft has eight Place Anywhere 1 Linear RCS Port thrusters.

The spacecraft will perform a few smaller correction burns until it reaches the asteroid.


Pictures from the mission:

Calculated orbit of the target asteroid.








A few seconds after first stage separation




Transfer burn




Approaching the asteroid




Asteroid successfully grabbed




Rotating and starting the ion drives to change the asteroids orbit.




After a while we successfully changed the orbit to 20000km over Kerbins surface!
As a bonus we had enough xenon gas on our spacecraft to do more than save the planet.
We were able to bring the asteroid into a circular orbit around Kerbin.
It`s new home is now between Mun and Minmus on an orbit 20000km over Kerbin with an inclination of 15°.
Now our scientists can do manned or unmanned missions to the asteroid to perform more research.






thank you for reading my submission to the Asteroid Day Challenge!
I hope you like it.
Never thought that something like this would be my first post on the KSP forum after over 8 years of playing KSP :)

Good luck to all the other participants!


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The Asteroid Day Challenge has officially ended. Thank you for participating! Submissions have been gathered and shared with Asteroid Day for the judges to review. Please keep an eye on Asteroid Day's Twitter account as the challenge winners will be announced on June 30th! 

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During the design of the Soteria mission, the alternative option of using the more efficient ion engine for meteor deflection was considered.  This solution would be suitable if it is known that mining for H2 propellant is not feasible, but would require carrying all of the propellant needed for the deflection to the asteroid, since it is not really feasible to assume the ability to mine noble gas propellant from the asteroid or comet.  Below is a mockup of a suggested craft, which would have an estimated mass of 16 tons (mostly propellant).  The ion engine deflector craft that attaches to the asteroid has a thrust of 4kN and a delta-V of ~50,000 m/s.  The estimated deflection that could be achieved:

Body mass  Deflection
  (tons) (mm/s)
Chelyabinsk 14,000 3.570
Tunguska 560,000 0.090
Apophis 27,000,000 0.002

Assuming arrival at the asteroid a few years in advance, a deflection would need to be greater than 10-100 mm/s to realistically deflect an asteroid away from imminent Earth impact.  Conclusion is that an ion propelled craft would not be an effective deflection solution.

Proposed ion engine propelled craft:




Design Notes:


It is assumed the craft is delivered to with a NERVA engine since it offers 10 times the thrust, although ion engines on the delivery craft could be an option.  
The proposed base vehicle is 21 ton craft at launch (prior to adding additional LH2 propellant), and so could be launched on a Space-X Falcon 9, ESA Ariane 6, or ULA Atlas V 552 launch vehicle.
It is possible that additional noble gas propellant could be added with subsequent launches to increase the dV of the asteroid deflection craft, perhaps up to 100,000 m/s.
With this solution, the craft is entirely expendable.


Edited by jinnantonix
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Primary Mission: Capture and Study Class D Asteroid (Operation Shiny Rock).

Mission Description:  A class d asteroid has been spotted in solar orbit on a path that will pass within feet of several satellites in HEO around Kerbin.  This has given our scientists the idea to use this close approach to capture the asteroid with the dubiously named Asteroid Graboid Mk1.  This craft will be designed to both capture and decelerate the Class D Asteroid in order to bring it into a polar orbit at an altitude of 500,000km.


          1.) Operation Shiny Rock:

                 a.) First Attempt: Complete failure.  Our first attempt with Asteroid Graboid Mk1 resulted in a spectacular explosion after tumbling end over end shortly after reaching an altitude of 5135km.  The KSC R&D department has yet again suggested funding and developing a system to test rocket designs prior to launch.  Luckily the aforementioned spacecraft was unmanned so Jeb didn't get lost in mountains again.




                b.) Second Attempt: Partial Success.  Our first attempt with the updated (added much needed space tape, fins, and boosters) Asteroid Graboid Mk2 resulted in a partial success of mission parameters.  We were able to capture the asteroid, which KSC has named CHAD (Collision Hazard-Asteroid D-Class) and decelerated it into a HEO around Kerbin, but ran out of fuel before getting CHAD into a 500,000km polar orbit.  R&D department went on vacation following the successful launch of AG Mk2 and will be gone for the next week.  Because of this we decided to launch another AG Mk2 into space to reposition CHAD into the required orbit for the CHAD Research Station that has now been sitting on the desert launch pad for 5 months.




               c.) Third Attempt: After launching our second AG Mk2 we were able to capture and reposition CHAD into a polar orbit and at long last the science station was launched and rendezvoused with CHAD.  Future missions will relocate CHAD to low orbit over the Mun and eventually Minmus.






              d.)  Mission Success!!!



Lessons Learned: 

               -Do better maths for figuring out fuel needs.

               -If all else fails, add more space tape and boosters.

               -Contrary to the mission name this Asteroid is not shiny

               -Will need to negotiate a larger budget since we went well over what we were allotted. (Total Cost: 2,526,246.20 Kerbal Bucks)

Edited by Parkerbot
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Thank you again to everyone that participated in our Asteroid Day Planetary Defense Challenge.  We appreciate the time and effort that went into all of your entries. 
I'm excited to announce that Asteroid Day has announced the winners! You can check out the winner announcement on Asteroid Day's twitter HERE and website HERE. 

Congratulations to @TomMaverick, @Kerbal Productions, @dnbattley, @The Doodling Astronaut & @Kerbal Engineering Systems!
I'll be messaging each of you to get your contact info for prize distribution. 

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  • 1 month later...
On 8/3/2021 at 7:45 PM, dnbattley said:

A month or so later, thanks to the time it takes to ship around the world:


Woohoo! Thanks KSP Team!

Woot! Congrats again! Thanks for sharing this pic with us. :)

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