Femtosecond Optical Metrology Applied to Asteroid Redirection

uah p 17017

Docket: UAH-P-17017


Collision of a large asteroid with Earth could wreak havoc on our civilization. In 2013, a 10m radius asteroid struck Chelyabinsk, Russia, stimulating newfound and urgent interest in asteroid redirection. This recent strike occurred in rural Russia, but still caused 1,500 injuries. If such a strike had happened in a heavily-populated area, or involved a significantly larger asteroid, the effects could have been far more devastating.

Researchers at UAH are developing a method for asteroid redirection using optimally designed and applied arrays of energetic femtosecond pulses. The goal is maximally efficient and maximally precise redirection. The pulses are delivered in groups in which the individual pulses, time and location of delivery, each pulse energy, pulse duration, and degree of approach of each pulse to transform limit are all designed to make each cooperative ablation event contribute optimally to the redirection event. The potential outcome appears to be a capability to redirect even asteroids much larger than the Chelyabinsk asteroid within time periods of practical interest for defense of life on Earth.

This redirection strategy, in effect, offers means of transforming the asteroid into a precisely steered and maximally efficient spacecraft while using power derivable from solar illumination and propellant from the asteroid. Our long-term goal is to have several such redirecting systems optimally distributed and regularly maintained in the region of space around Earth. Our model predicts eventual achievement of successful redirection of a wide range of asteroids. Similar systems appear potentially useful in yet deeper regions of space. 


  • Asteroid redirection
  • Collision prevention
  • Space exploration
  • Altering path of orbit


  • Energy efficient
  • Precise control
  • Efficient and timely
  • Reliable


  • State of Development: Concept
  • Licensing Status: Available for licensing
  • Patent status: Patent Pending