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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Asteroid Tumbling Normalization with Momentum Wheel

The complexity behind landing on an asteroid surface and taking scientific measurements is increased when the spin profile of the asteroid is not about the principal axis of inertia. Tumbling asteroids present unique challenges to landing craft which can be alleviated through use of a momentum wheel. As a precursor to the main science mission, a simple spacecraft containing a momentum wheel would be secured to the asteroid. Over time, the angular momentum of the asteroid would transfer from the minor inertial axis to the major axis. This would greatly decrease the risk of the following science mission and would also provide for simplified thrusting along the principal axis if orbit modification or deflection of the asteroid was required.

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