Physical modeling and high-performance GPU computing for characterization, interception, and disruption of hazardous near-Earth objects
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For the past few decades, both the scientific community and the general public have been becoming more aware that the Earth lives in a shooting gallery of small objects. We classify all of these asteroids and comets, known or unknown, that cross Earth's orbit as near-Earth objects (NEOs). A look at our geologic history tells us that NEOs have collided with Earth in the past, and we expect that they will continue to do so. With thousands of known NEOs crossing the orbit of Earth, there has been significant scientific interest in developing the capability to deflect an NEO from an impacting trajectory. This thesis applies the ideas of Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) theory to the NEO disruption problem. A simulation package was designed that allows efficacy simulation to be integrated into the mission planning and design process. This is done by applying ideas in high-performance computing (HPC) on the computer graphics processing unit (GPU). Rather than prove a concept through large standalone simulations on a supercomputer, a highly parallel structure allows for flexible, target dependent questions to be resolved. Built around nonclassified data and analysis, this computer package will allow academic institutions to better tackle the issue of NEO mitigation effectiveness.