Meeting #17 (Oct 2021) - SMPAG
SUMMARY OF THE 17th MEETING OF THE SPACE MISSION PLANNING ADVISORY GROUP (SMPAG)
13 & 14 October 2021
MS Teams Virtual meeting
The 17th meeting of the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) took place on 13 and 14 October 2021, in a format of two half-day virtual meetings. The meeting was chaired by the European Space Agency (ESA), the current SMPAG Chair (2020-2022) and supported by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) as the Secretariat.
Adoption of the agenda and introduction of participants.
The agenda was adopted. The following agencies and institutions were represented at the meeting (AEM, ASI, CNSA, Czech Republic, DLR, ESA, FFG, ISA, JAXA, KASI, NASA, ROSA, UKSA). Observers for COSPAR, IAA and UNOOSA participated at the meeting. The meeting was also attended by representatives from the Austrian Space Forum, the US State Department, and the Royal Observatory of Belgium. Representatives from the SMPAG Legal Working also attended the meeting.
DAY 1, 13 October
1) SMPAG Status and General Items
The new SMPAG Chair, Detlef Koschny, presented the status of SMPAG members and observers. The status is available at http://www.smpag.net/smpag_members. There has been an indication by the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) to become SMPAG member, an application is expected by the next SMPAG meeting.
2) Report by IAWN
IAWN Coordinator, Kelly Fast, NASA PDCO, reported on the status of IAWN since last SMPAG meeting. There are currently 35 signatories to the IAWN Statement of Intent. She has reminded all on the intent of IAWN, as stipulated in the Statement of Intent, that is, “to establish a worldwide effort to detect, track and physically characterize NEOs to determine those that are potential impact threats to Earth. This network is comprised of a partnership of scientific institutions, observatories, and other interested parties performing observations, orbit computation, modelling, and other scientific research related to the impact potential and effects of asteroids. IAWN endeavours to foster a shared understanding of the NEO hazard and optimize the scientific return on these small celestial bodies”.
IAWN Coordinator also presented the latest IAWN Observing Campaign - 2019 XS: Timing Assessment that will kick off at the next, 13th Steering Committee of the IAWN, held on 19-20 October 2021 and is aimed at checking the timing accuracy for reported observing times, thus strengthening the IAWN capacity to provide accurate data to MPC. More information, including Twitter feeds from IAWN signatories and articles on new orbit determination series are available at https://iawn.net
3) SMPAG Ad-Hoc Working Group on Legal Issues
2.1. Presentation of SMPAG Legal WG final report to external audiences
The coordinator of the SMPAG Legal WG, Alissa Haddaji, informed that the final report entitled “Planetary Defence: Legal Overview and Assessment - Report by the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) Ad-Hoc Working Group on Legal Issues to SMPAG” (document SMPAG-RP-004) was brought to the attention of COPUOS member States, first at the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of COPUOS as part of SMPAG report to STSC in Conference room paper 20, and in a technical presentation to the Legal Subcommittee of COPUOS. A dedicated panel entitled “Legal and policy issues related to mitigation options” was held at the 2021 IAA Planetary Defense Conference (see video).
SMPAG Legal WG member Prof. Irmgard Marboe also informed SMPAG on the recently published book on this topic, titled Legal Aspects of Planetary Defence (ed. Irmgard Marboe, September 2021, Series: Studies in Space Law).
2.2. Future workplan
The coordinator of the SMPAG Legal WG presented ideas for the future workplan, to include:
- Decision to act;
- Liability considerations; and
- To provide advice to SMPAG when it conducts its exercise in testing its capabilities in case of an asteroid impact threat.
SMPAG invited the SMPAG Legal WG to participate in the first SMPAG exercise by providing advice to SMPAG when it conducts its exercise in testing its capabilities in case of an asteroid impact threat. SMPAG agreed that a tasking statement should be presented by the SMPAG Legal WG on its future workplan for consideration by SMPAG at its next meeting. The SMPAG Legal WG will discuss this intersessionally.
2.3. Call for members and possible funding
The coordinator of the SMPAG Legal WG that the WG currently comprises 10 members and that the WG is looking to expand its membership, with more geographical representation. It was agreed that SMPAG Chair will reach out, among others, to representatives of China and the Russian Federation to possibly nominate their representatives.
The coordinator of the SMPAG Legal WG also pointed out that funding support for future work by coordinator would be appreciated. The coordinator will provide a one-page assessment of the funds needed. The observer for IAA will reach out to the IAA for funding possibility.
4) Updates on on-going and planed missions relevant for PD:
SMPAG exchanged information on the following on-going and planned activities of its members:
- Hayabusa2 (JAXA): Sample return mission Hayabusa2 that returned to Earth on 6 December 2020 with a total mass of 5.4 grams of samples from the target asteroid (162173) Ryugu is in an on-going sample analysis phase. The current Phase 1 includes the analysis and description of samples, results are expected to be announced in early 2022. From June 2022, samples will be distributed according to the distribution schedule and international analysis will begin.
- The extended Hayabusa2 mission includes a scheduled arrival to a very small asteroid “1998 KY26”, 30 meters in diameter in 2031.
- DESTINY+ space mission (JAXA, DLR) will launch in 2024 as a fly-by mission to asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
- Collaboration with Hera – JAXA will provide a thermal infrared imager (TIRI) to Hera.
- OSIRIS-REx (NASA): Sample return from asteroid Bennu in expected for September 2023.
- Other NASA Planetary Science missions to asteroids include Lucy (mission to the Jupiter Trojans, currently in final preparations for opening of launch period, 16 October 2021); Psyche (mission to a “Metal world”, in integration and test phase for August 2022 launch); Janus (SIMPLEx mission to two binary asteroids, continuation of development is under review).
- DART mission (NASA): Scheduled for launch on 23 November 2021. The DART spacecraft is expected to impact the 160-metre-sized moonlet of the binary near-Earth asteroid (65803) Didymos in the fall of 2022 to demonstrate a kinetic impact orbit deflection technique. A controlled impact experiment to increase confidence of kinetic impact predictions and improve understanding of asteroid physical properties and high-speed collisions.
- NEO Surveyor Mission (NASA): NEO Surveyor Space-based IR Observatory with an objective to find 65% of undiscovered Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) >140 m in 5 years, as tasked by U.S. Congress (goal: 90% in 10 years), The NEOSM should allow to estimate sizes directly from IR signatures of the NEOs and deliver new traclet data daily to the Minor Planet Center.
- Hera mission (ESA): As a follow-up mission to DART, the Hera mission is planned to encounter the Didymos asteroid system in 2026 and provide a valuable post-impact assessment of the effects of the DART deflection test. System PDR successfully completed in December 2020. Currently, the mission is in Phase C (subsystems PDRs, CDRs), review of payloads and instruments. On schedule for launch in 2024.
- Current NEO-related Missions and Projects with German participation (DLR): Hera- Europe’s reconnaissance mission to Didymos and Dimorphos, planned for launch in 2024, following and complementing NASA’s DART impactor; NEO-MAPP – EU-funded project (Feb. 2020 – Jan. 2023) with work packages in support of Hera science; Impact Effects Engineering Tool – ESA contract (Deimos, MfN); FastKD – Fast Kinetic impactor Deflection mission concept; Destiny+ – JAXA/DLR mission to 3200 Phaethon.
- Upcoming activities within the EU-funded space programme and Horizon Europe managed by ESA: As part of the budget of the European Commission (EU Space Programme) for SSA, funds are available for NEO segment. ESA has been tasked in the timeframe 2021-2027 with the following tasks (as per Technical Annex to the Contribution Agreement): Task 2 - Promoting networking of member states’ facilities and research centres (possible workshop); Tasks 4 and 5 - Development of provision of rapid expert response service in relation to new NEOs (top-level missions and detailed missions) – which provide potential for funding mission studies for all objects on the risks list.
5) First SMPAG NEO hypothetical threat exercise
As a follow-up to the SMPAG decision at its 16th meeting, delegation of ASI, incoordination
with the SMPAG Chair and the Secretariat prepared a detailed proposal for the first SMPAG NEO threat exercise that will focus on the inter-agency procedure to organise a coordinated response to the hypothetical impact threat.
The SMPAG introduced the proposal for such an exercise already to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of COPUOS as part of its reporting. In its report in 2021, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) noted …"that SMPAG had proposed the idea of performing an exercise aimed at testing its real-world capabilities to support planetary defence in the case of an actual threat, and that the Italian Space Agency would organize a splinter meeting to evaluate the proposal, define timelines for the exercise and identify contributing agencies.” (A/76/20, para. 112)
The objectives of this exercise are:
1. Primary Objective
- to define the tasks required for a SMPAG coordinated response to the Exercise NEO threat
- to define which entity/ies would be responsible for these tasks.
- to identify the procedures internally to each SMPAG member to propose a response to the SMPAG
2. Secondary objective
Aside the minimum aim of the exercise described above, a desired but not requested aim of this exercise is to simulate and perform the actual tasks or part of them for the selected threat scenario. This secondary objective can be done collaboratively among contributing SMPAG members. The detailed proposal in contained in Annex 1.
SMPAG thanked ASI for this elaborated proposal. Many SMPAG members expressed readiness to participate in this exercise, noting however, limited time-or human resources capabilities that need to be considered. Several SMPAG members also indicated they would report back to SMPAG Chair on their participation.
SMPAG agreed that the ASI would re-name the asteroid with a hypothetical name to avoid any misperception about the fact that this is indeed a hypothetical exercise. ASI would also re-frame the timelines, with a focus on TASK 1 before the next meeting of SMPAG in February 2022. SMPAG further agreed that ASI would email SMPAG heads of delegations, asking them to indicate whether they will be participating in the exercise and to identify a focal point for it.
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DAY 2, 14 October
6) Plans for Apophis: Exchange of information over plans amongst space agencies
- ESA: For the next ESA funding period, ESA has proposed to its member countries to fund a CubeSat mission to Apophis. This would be based on M-ARGO (Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer). M-ARGO is a CubeSat mission to study a small asteroid, with a launch date expected in April 2028 and arrival in February 2029.
- NASA: Plans include first defining scientific objectives that could be achieved by this opportunity (close encounter) as well as methods to achieve them in all phases, i.e., before, during and post close encounter. Also, identifying from where data could be best collected (ground-based/space-based), upon which NASA would define its observation campaign and potential flight missions.
- KASI Rendezvous Mission with Apophis for Scientific Investigation and Planetary Defense (KASI): The 3rd Revision of the Basic Plan for Promotion of Space Development includes the following milestones: 1) ’22: Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter; 2) mid-20’s: Lunar lander mission, planned; and 3) 20’s-30’s: Asteroid mission(s), planned. For Apophis, preliminary plans include the following milestones: 1) Earth departure: 19 April 2028; 2) Apophis rendezvous: 4 February, 2029 with near-optimal launch opportunities persisting until mid-2028
7) Work plan items
Under this agenda item, lead agencies of workplan items reported on the status of the progress. Updates were given for the following SMPAG workplan items, presentations on the status of workplan items are available at:
5.1 Criteria and thresholds for impact response actions (NASA): Completed. Final report SMPAG-RP-003, v. 2.0 (Feb 2019). It was noted that the agreed criteria have already been implemented in several documents of member Agencies.
5.2 Mitigation mission types and technologies to be considered (UKSA): update was presented.
5.3 Mapping of threat scenarios to mission types (ESA): status is unchanged.
5.4 Reference missions for different NEO threat scenarios (ASI): update was presented.
5.5 A plan for action in case of a credible threat (NASA/ESA): status is unchanged.
5.6 Communication guidelines in case of a credible threat (NASA): If real preparations for a Planetary Defence mission start, special communication guidelines might be required. As communication is mainly addressed by IAWN this activity could be combined with an IAWN activity on communication.
5.7 Produce a roadmap for future work on planetary defence (DLR): This is a living document (see SMPAG-RP-001, v.2.0, 2017 Oct on the SMPAG webpage). A new version (SMPAG-RP-001, v. 3.0) is in preparation.
5.8 Consequences, including failure, of NEO mitigation space missions (ESA/FFG): Presentation on Rethinking communications strategy was given by representative of Austrian Space Forum.
5.9. Criteria for deflection targeting (ROSA): update will be given at the next meeting.
5.10 Study of the nuclear device option: A compilation of existing literature that addresses issues related to NEO mitigation using a nuclear device is ongoing. SMPAG members are invited to provide additional references (publication references and abstracts/summaries). and a text for an introduction and background information.
5.11 Toolbox for a characterisation payload (CNES): Additional input for a database of instruments and capabilities should be provided. Spreadsheet is re-distributed.
7.1. Future of workplan
The SMPAG Chair reminded SMPAG members about the proposal that was put for discussion at the 16th SMPAG meeting (see Annex II) to merge some of the workplan items and to split the merged items along 1) mitigation missions, and 2) mitigation technologies, including NEO properties.
8) Proposal for International Year of Planetary Defence (Johnson, Dao)
SMPAG members were informed about the on-going plans for a campaign to propose through the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to the UN General Assembly to declare year 2029 as an international year of planetary defence to build upon the momentum and the unique opportunity of the close approach by Apophis in 2029.
The recommendation stems from the dedicated panel at the 2021 IAA PDC. Doris Dao, Scientific Officer at NASA PDCO informed members the proposal would build on positive experiences of the 2009 International year of Astronomy (IYA) and would engage IAU and UNOOSA. A working group is to be established to work on a detailed plan for proposing to the UN a designation of such an international year.
SMPAG agreed to support this proposal and take active part in the process and called upon 1-2 volunteers from the SMPAG members to be part of the Working Group. SMPAG will also allocated a dedicated agenda item on this to be informed on the status of preparations regularly.
9) Other matters
2021 Planetary Defense Conference, 26-30 April 2021, hosted by UNOOSA in cooperation with ESA was held as a virtual WebEx event.
SMPAG was informed on the successful holding of 2021 IAA PDC with 700 participants from 50 countries. The programme included highlights during the “green zone” times that covered most of the time-zones, with an average of 300 same-time users. The unique feature of 2021 IAA PDC were dedicated panels, such as on decision to act, legal issues related to PD, communication’s – and disaster managers’ panel as well as heads of space agencies panel that featured high-level speakers (ESA DG, AEB President, CNSA Vice-Administrator, NASA Acting Administrator, JAXA Vice-President, KASI President, FFG Head etc.) The conference has been webcast, all videos and presentations are available at:
The 2023 IAA PDC is expected to be held at the Vienna International Centre, Vienna, and hosted by UNOOSA in cooperation with ESA. The conference will have a dedicated Astra Astronautica issue, student grants for PD-related projects are available, see
10) Next SMPAG meeting:
The 18th SMPAG meeting will take place in conjunction with the 59th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, scheduled on 7-18 February 2022, at the Vienna International Centre (VIC), Vienna during the first week of the session, over two half days, from 9 to 10 February 2022, preceded by IAWN meeting on 8 February.
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First SMPAG Hypothetical Threat Exercise – Lead: ASI
Prepared by ASI delegation in collaboration with ESA delegation
Camilla Colombo, Marco Castronuovo, Detlef Koschny, Romana Kofler, Gerhard Drolshagen firstname.lastname@example.org
The first SMPAG NEO threat exercise will focus on the inter-agency procedure to organise a coordinated response to the threat. The document is organised as follows: Section 1.2 presents the objective of this exercise, Section 1.3 reminds of the terms of reference of the SMPAG. Section 1.4 describes the target chosen for the NEO threat exercise. The SMPAG exercise tasks are explained in Section 1.5 and the organisational aspects are explained in Section 1.6. The expected outcomes of the SMPAG NEO threat exercise are explained in Section 1.7.
The objective of this exercise is:
- to define the tasks required for a SMPAG coordinated response to the Exercise NEO threat
- to define which entity/ies would be responsible for these tasks.
- to identify the procedures internally to each SMPAG member to propose a response to the SMPAG
Aside the minimum aim of the exercise described above, a desired but not requested aim of this first SMPAG exercise is to simulate and perform the actual tasks or part of them for the selected threat scenario. This secondary objective can be done collaboratively between contributing SMPAG members.
Mandate and terms of reference of SMPAG
The SMPAG introduced the proposal for such an exercise, following its 16th meeting, to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of COPUOS as part of its reporting.
In its report in 2021, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) noted …"that SMPAG had proposed the idea of performing an exercise aimed at testing its real-world capabilities to support planetary defence in the case of an actual threat, and that the Italian Space Agency would organize a splinter meeting to evaluate the proposal, define timelines for the exercise and identify contributing agencies.” (A/76/20, para. 112)
See also SMPAG TORs, https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/smpag/terms_of_reference_v2
[…] The objectives of SMPAG are to develop cooperative activities among its members and to build consensus on recommendations for planetary defense measures.
(e) Develop decision and event timelines for a variety of potential Earth impactors and trajectories identified in the applicable reference missions.
According to the “Status report on work package 5.1 from workplan "Recommended criteria and thresholds for action for a potential NEO impact threat", SMPAG-RP-003/1.0, 2018 Oct 18” the criteria for a response to a potential NEO impact threat is
- Minimum diameter 50 m
- 1% impact chance within 50 years
For this exercise a synthetic NEO is selected taking a asteroid close to the top of the ESA NEO risk list but with a synthetic magnified higher impact risk. With this idea in mind, the object to be considered is 2021QM1. The diameter is about 50 m, with possible impact in April 2052. The currently computed impact probability of 1/3322 is synthetically increased to 1/32. All the data corresponding to the impact threat can be retrieved in  while the modified covariance matrix can be distributed in the coming months.
National coordination (Sprint 1/3)
The first sprint will focus on the national organisation and coordination and on defining the lists of tasks to be performed in response to a threat scenario.
A non-complete list of tasks is reported here below as example. It is asked to each delegation to complete this list.
- Refinement of risk of impact
- Improved orbit determination
- Trade-off of possible mission architectures and deflection strategies
- Selection of the deflection strategy and eventual investigation mission
- Perform mission analysis of selected mission
- Perform system design of selected mission
- Approval at SMPAG-member level of the proposed mission
- 2 List the entities involved at national (SMPAG-member) level for the completion and coordination of these tasks at national (SMPAG-member) level
List all the different entities involved at national (SMPAG-member) level for the completion of this tasks, describe how the coordination of these tasks is performed at national level.
Explain which tasks can be performed at national level as there is internal capabilities to perform them and for which tasks there is no internal capabilities.
- 3 Explain the internal (SMPAG-member) procedure for performing and advancing the tasks identified at Task 1 at national (SMPAG-member) level
SMPAG collaboration (Sprint 2/3)
To harmonise the national (SMPAG-level) efforts into a SMPAG coordinated action this must be organised at
- communication level
- technical level
- decision level
The second sprint will focus on discussing how the coordination is done among different SMPAG delegations.
The tasks identified in Task 1 need to be coordinated and performed in a collaborative effort at SMPAG level. To this aim this Task will identify the tasks distribution among multiple SMPAG members for a SMPAG NEO response and will discuss how the coordination at the level of SMPAG members is achieved.
For a fruitful collaboration the data exchange mechanics need to be defined together with the data formats. This task will be completed through a discussion at the SMPAG level.
SMPAG coordination and communication (Sprint 3/3)
The third sprint will deal with communication and coordination issues within SMPAG.
Define the milestones during the mission planning and preparation for communication and discussion within SMPAG in a threat case
- Define the required milestones for communication and data exchange during the response
- Define the time schedule and milestones for coordination with other delegations
- Define the communication channels within SMPAG
- Define how the coordination with IAWN should be implemented
- Recall how a decision is taken in SMPAG and propose approaches for ensuring an easy achievement of consensus within SMPAG. For example, the steering group at SMPAG coordination might be performed by the SMPAG chair.
This Tasks will review and consolidate the communication procedure of an impact hazard at SMPAG level, in collaboration with IAWN and communicating such options to member states at COPUOS STSC.
This task will define the procedure in case of failure of the first deflection mission achieved though the previous task. This Task will define a back-up procedure if the deflection mission fails including:
- Asteroid/fragment re-entry coordination
- National security coordination
- International security coordination
The SMPAG NEO threat exercise will be performed
- through monthly telecons among participating SMPAG members and
- through work at the national SMPAG-member level work
The SMPAG NEO threat exercise will be organised in 3 sprints each of them Kicked-Off (KO) and completed by a SMPAG telecon. Additional ad-hoc splinter meetings will be organised at need.
The aim of each sprint is described below:
- Compare the task lists defined by each SMPAG member [Task 1]
- Compare and discuss the entities involved at national (SMPAG-member) level for the completion and coordination of these tasks at national (SMPAG-member) level [Task 2]
- Compare and discuss the internal (SMPAG-member) procedure for performing and advancing the tasks identified at Task 1 at national (SMPAG-member) level [Task 3]
Aims: Discuss how to compare the results and procedures derived at national level in the SMPAG
- Identify the tasks distribution among SMPAG members for a coordinated NEO response [Task 4]
- Identify data exchange mechanics and formats [Task 5]
Aims: Define the milestones for inter-SMPAG-member coordination
- Define the milestone for inter-SMPAG-member coordination [Task 6]
- Define the communication lines within a threat event [Task 7]
- Procedures in case of failures of the deflection action [Task 8]
Involvement of the legal working group
Advise will be sought and is welcome by the SMPAG legal group.
The output of the exercise will be a final report containing all the output of Sprint (1/3) on the national coordination, print 2/3 on SMPAG collaboration and sprint 3/3 on SMPAG coordination and communication. The report will have single delegation part and SMPAG part depending on the tasks.
During the whole exercise each participating delegation will be requested to input contributions using a template for that will be shared.
The results of the analysis and the collective analysis of each delegation will be coordinated in a unique presentation at SMPAG meeting in Feb 2022. The next SMPAG meeting will take place during the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space on 7-18 February 2022 in Vienna VIC.
The desired output of the first SMPAG NEO threat exercise is to draft a:
- Single delegation (SMPAG members) coordination plan
- SMPAG common coordination plan
The resulting report and presentation could form a conference paper for information under NEO agenda item of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of COPUOS.
- Risk List - NEO (esa.int), last retrieved 11/10/2021.
SMPAG Workplan Items (including Chair’s proposal from the 16th SMPAG meeting
- 5.1 Criteria and thresholds for impact response actions (NASA)
- Criteria have already been implemented in several documents of member states
- 5.2 Mitigation mission types and technologies to be considered (UKSA)
- 5.3 Mapping of threat scenarios to mission types (ESA)
- 5.4 Reference missions for different NEO threat scenarios (ASI)
- 5.5 A plan for action in case of a credible threat (NASA/IAA)
- SMPAG has supporting role as defined in ToR
- 5.6 Communication guidelines in case of a credible threat (NASA)
- Could be combined with IAWN activity on communication
- 5.7 Roadmap for future work on planetary defense (DLR)
- Living document
- 5.8 Consequences, including failure, of NEO mitigation space missions
- Draft will be distributed soon for review
- 5.9 Criteria for deflection targeting (ROSA)
- 5.10 Study the nuclear device option (all)
- Provide more references and text for introduction
- 5.11 Toolbox for a NEO characterization payload (CNES)
Provide input for database of instruments and capabilities
- Activities 5.2, 5.9, and perhaps parts of 5.3 could be combined into 1 activity (Mitigation technologies)
- Activities 5.3, 5.4, and potentially 5.5 could be combined as well (Mitigation missions)
- The development of visible output should be accelerated. The aim is to produce reports, databases or tools for practical applications at the engineering level. Some activities could be completed with higher priority and support from all members. An update of the workplan is envisaged.