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Prof Bruce Conway

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Bruce Conway is a Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been on the faculty since 1981. He received the Ph. D. in Aeronautics & Astronautics from Stanford University in 1980, working with John Breakwell. He is a fellow of the AAS and an associate fellow of the AIAA. He is an associate editor of the AAS J. of the Astronautical Sciences and of the J. of Optimization Theory and Applications. He is the author (with John Prussing) of the textbook Orbital Mechanics (Oxford University Press) and is the editor of the book Spacecraft Trajectory Optimization (from Cambridge University Press). His research is primarily in the fields of celestial mechanics, spacecraft trajectory optimization, numerical optimization methods, metaheuristic methods for trajectory optimization, and differential games. Prof. Conway is also a commercial pilot and instrument flight instructor with more than 2000 hours of flight experience.


Optimizing Interplanetary Trajectories With Particular Application to Asteroid Deflection
There are many proposed methods for mitigation of the danger posed by a hazardous near-Earth asteroid. All require that a spacecraft be sent to either rendezvous (for methods such as the gravity tractor) or intercept (for methods such as kinetic impact) the asteroid. The method of propulsion of the spacecraft might be a conventional chemical rocket engine that provides “impulsive” thrust or a low-thrust electric (ion) engine or possibly even a solar sail. The trajectory may even benefit from using planetary flybys. The choice depends in great measure on the time available to implement the strategy and the objective, which might be delivering the largest possible mass for a gravity tractor vehicle or nuclear weapon, or causing the largest deflection via a kinetic impactor vehicle. It is clear that there are many combinations of all of the factors that need to be considered in designing the mission. Not surprisingly, there is no single method for optimization of the trajectory of the mission that is the best for all possible cases. In this sequence of three lectures we will first provide a summary (and in some cases a derivation) of the best extant methods for space trajectory optimization. Then we will show how to formulate the objective, e.g. moving the predicted impact point off the surface of the Earth as much as possible, which is not a straightforward function of the deflection impulse. Finally we will show how these tools can be combined to optimize trajectories for some of the most likely mitigation missions and even for precursor, threat characterization missions, including sample returns.

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