The B612 Sentinel mission extends the emerging commercial spaceflight industry into deep space – a first that will pave the way for many other ventures. Mapping the presence of 1000′s of near earth objects will create a new scientific database and greatly enhance our stewardship of the planet.
Dr. Scott Hubbard, B612 Foundation Program Architect
Sentinel is a mission of mapping and discovery. Mapping the great unknown of the inner solar system is the first step in protecting the Earth from asteroid impacts and in opening up this next frontier. By observing in infrared, Sentinel will discover more than 20,000 asteroids in just the first month of operation – more discoveries than all other telescopes combined have managed to discover in the last 30 years – and over 6.5 years will locate and follow the trajectories of more than 90% of asteroids larger than 140 meters.
The Sentinel Space Telescope will take about four years to build and test, with a scheduled launch in 2017-18, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. After 6.5 years of operation, Sentinel will discover about 500,000 NEAs. Sentinel will compile the definitive catalog of NEAs, and within a few years nearly all NEAs known to humanity will have been discovered by Sentinel (more than 98% after 6.5 years).
As Sentinel orbits the Sun every 7 months, its field of view (looking away from the Sun) will sweep around the sky. Sentinel will make repeated observations of the sky in infrared looking for objects that move: asteroids. Sentinel will transmit the data on the locations of these asteroids back to Earth where the discoveries will be confirmed and the positions of the asteroids will be mathematically pieced together into orbits.
The work of the B612 Foundation and others over the past decade has shown that asteroid deflection is possible with current technology as long as the deflection is carried out decades before the impending impact. The urgency in completing the mission arises because there could be an impact from an asteroid in the next few decades, when the task of deflecting them becomes extremely difficult, or almost impossible (depending on the size of the asteroid) using current technology. Why take this risk?
We are at the beginning of a new era in exploration where private organizations can now conduct grand and audacious space missions, previously only possible by governments – and at lower cost. Mapping the great unknown of the inner solar system is the first step to opening up this next frontier, as well as protecting Earth.
The B612 Foundation believes that humanity can harness the power of science and technology to protect the future of civilization on this planet, while extending our reach into the solar system. Our view is that we are not passengers on Space Ship Earth – we are the Crew.
An important lesson we hope young people will be able to draw from Sentinel is that individuals and small private organizations can make a difference in the world. Through the power of science and technology, humanity must eventually be able to change the evolution of the solar system. The Sentinel mission may very well find an asteroid on a collision course with Earth (in fact it has a roughly 30 percent chance). It is our belief that the people of the world will then unite in carrying out a deflection of that asteroid to prevent this future impact. We hope that B612/Sentinel will be a source of inspiration to budding young scientists, engineers, and dreamers worldwide.