by Alberto Cellino

NEOROCKS (Near Earth Objects Rapid Observations, Characterization and Key Simulations) is a project which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870403.
For the purposes of planetary defense, NEOROCKS improves knowledge on physical characterization of Near Earth Objects (NEOs), namely asteroids and comets that can have close approaches, including also possible impacts, with the Earth. NEOROCKS connects expertise in performing small body astronomical observations and the related modelling needed to derive their dynamical and physical properties, to the pragmatic planetary defense approach, which aims to provide operational loops and information systems to protect citizens and ground infrastructures from potential threats.

The challenge for physical characterization is to keep up with the increasing NEO discovery rate. The challenge for planetary defense is to keep up with the trend of NEO discoveries dominated by small-size objects near the Earth, capable to produce damage in case of impact. Among them, are “imminent impactors” with short warning times.

NEOROCKS proposes an innovative approach to the studies of the population of so-called near-Earth objects,  The NEOROCKS approach is focused on:

  1. A team of expert astronomers with access to large aperture telescopes equipped with state of the art instrumentation;
  2. Investigating the relationship between orbit determination of newly discovered objects and quick execution of follow-up observations, to provide SW technologies to face imminent impactors threats;
  3. Profiting from European industrial expertise on Space Situational Awareness (SSA) to plan and execute breakthrough experiments on remote tasking of highly automatized robotic telescopes for rapid response;
  4. Extremely high standards in data dissemination, thus scaling up results to global level and exploiting results (through ASI Space Science Data Centre).

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Impressione artistica di un impatto asteroidale

Artistic impression of an NEO targeting Earth. (Image credit: ASI)