Space rock slips by Earth.
Courtesy: Texas A&M


Several new initiatives are underway to better catalog asteroids and their potential to strike the Earth.

Headquartered in California’s Silicon Valley, the B612 organization is dedicated to protecting Earth from asteroid impacts.

Earlier this year, the organization created the Asteroid Institute with team members busy at work on hardware, new technologies, and applications intended to help accelerate knowledge and understanding of asteroids.

Cloud platform

One of those efforts is building on the Asteroid Decision Analysis Machine (ADAM) Cloud Platform. “The ADAM project will provide a cloud-based infrastructure for large-scale orbital dynamics and related computations that will enable the science, policy, and business community to better understand and make sense of opportunities and threats coming from the asteroids in the solar system,” explains Danica Remy, President of the B612 Foundation.

ADAM is a project of the Asteroid Institute, and in layman’s terms, the ADAM project is building the application and interface layer to access and make sense of the data comprising the asteroid map. A map is more than just a collection of data. For it to be truly useful, the data must be presented in a way that allows us to see the relationship amongst the elements and to calculate quantities of interest — for instance, a map of the probability distribution that a certain asteroid will impact the Earth on a particular date.

The ADAM project will allow researchers worldwide to build applications that make use of the data in the asteroid map.

Credit: ESA – P.Carril

Data pipeline

The Asteroid Institute’s Executive Director is former astronaut, Ed Lu and co-Founder, B612.

“Recently recruited Asteroid Institute researchers will be based at the Data Intensive Research in Astrophysics and Cosmology Center (DIRAC) and the Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington, “ Lu adds.

“Our work includes collaboration with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) working on the asteroid data pipeline, the Asteroid Decision Analysis Machine (ADAM), further development of synthetic tracking to improve our ability to discover small asteroids, and analysis of a future satellite constellation for detecting and tracking asteroids,” Lu says.

Satellite constellation under study

The B612 Asteroid Institute is also investigating the use of a constellation of small — under-100-kilogram — satellites in solar orbit to provide a catalog of the majority of smaller asteroids.

“The threat from even 30-meter objects is important enough to influence the development of future surveys. The nearly 100x increase in the number of objects compared to 140-meter size and larger requires new survey techniques to achieve a high level of completeness, “explains Harold Reitsema, Asteroid Institute Mission Director and leading the effort to develop methods to improve the rate of discovery of near-Earth asteroids.

Credit: B612


In a recent report on this concept, Reitsema says that the satellites will perform on-board computation to identify and measure the motions of all near Earth Objects (NEOs) in an image, allowing them to communicate their findings to Earth using existing low-cost telecom equipment.

“We are currently working on the design of a proof-of-concept satellite that will fly in low Earth orbit to demonstrate the on-board ability while also sending all data to the ground for building confidence in the performance of the automated system,” Reitsema adds.

To review the B612 Foundation’s recently released progress report for 2017, go to:

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