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This paper is part of an integrated study by NASA and the NNSA to quantitatively understand the response timeframe should a threatening Earth-impacting near-Earth
object (NEO) be identified. The two realistic responses considered are the use of a spacecraft functioning as either a kinetic impactor or a nuclear explosive carrier to
deflect the approaching NEO. The choice depends on the NEO size and mass, the available response time prior to Earth impact, and the various uncertainties.
Whenever practical, the kinetic impactor is the preferred approach, but various factors, such as large uncertainties or short available response time, reduce the kinetic
impactor's suitability and, ultimately, eliminate its sufficiency.
Herein we examine response time and the activities that occur between the time when an NEO is recognized as being a sufficient threat to require a deflection and
the time when the deflection impulse is applied to the NEO. To use a kinetic impactor for successful deflection of an NEO, it is essential to minimize the reaction time
and maximize the time available for the impulse delivered to the NEO by the kinetic impactor to integrate forward in time to the eventual deflection of the NEO away
from Earth impact.
To shorten the response time, we develop tools to survey the profile of needed spacecraft launches and the possible mission payloads. We further present a vehicle
design capable of either serving as a kinetic impactor, or, if the need arises, serving as a system to transport a nuclear explosive to the NEO. These results are generated
by analyzing a specific case study in which the simulated Earth-impacting NEO is modeled very closely after the real NEO known as 101955 Bennu (1999 RQ36). Bennu
was selected for our case study in part because it is the best-studied of the known NEOs. It is also the destination of NASA's OSIRIS-REx sample return mission, which
is, at the time of this writing, enroute to Bennu following a September 2016 launch.