18 October 2018

Knoxville, Tennessee, United States


The 11th meeting of the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) took place on 18 October 2018, in Knoxville, Tennessee, in conjunction with the meetings of the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) on 19 October and the meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences, 21-.26 October. The meeting was chaired by ESA, the recurrent SMPAG Chair (2018-2020)

1) Adoption of the agenda and introduction of participants.

The agenda was adopted. The following agencies and institutions were represented at the meeting (AEM, ASI, Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), CNSA, DLR, ESA, ISA, KASI, NASA). Observers for IAA, IAU and UNOOSA participated at the meeting. Experts from the Czech Republic also participated as observers. The meeting was also attended by technical experts from JPL, the US State Department, the University of Maryland and the University of Hawaii.

2) Status of SMPAG

The Chair of SMPAG gave an update on the status of SMPAG and its activities since the 10th meeting that was held in Vienna in January 2018, including the progress made under the workplan items, the draft report by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Legal Issues, publication of a joint IAWN-SMPAG-UN brochure on NEOs and Planetary Defence and publication of a joint article in Acta Astronautica on the work of IAWN, SMPAG and UNOOSA. 

3) Members and observers

SMPAG considered application for membership by the Czech Republic, sent by the Ministry of Transport, which is the coordinator of the space activities in the Czech Republic. SMPAG unanimously voted on the Czech Republic becoming the 19th member of SMPAG.  SMPAG also asked the new member to make a short presentation on their activities related to planetary defence at the next meeting.

SMPAG further considered the application by COSPAR for a permanent observer status with SMPAG and approved its application unanimously.

4) Updates on on-going and planned activities:

4.1. The new US National NEO Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan (by NASA):

The US National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan (Strategy and Action Plan) was released in June 2018 by the White House and is aimed at improving national preparedness to address the hazard of NEO impacts. The Action Plan is for the next 10 years and leverages on existing capabilities, national and international, public and private, to effectively manage the risks associated with NEOs. The progress in implementation will be reported annually to the US National Science and Technology Council, its Subcommittee on Space Hazards and Security. The strategy contains five strategic goals, supported by associated actions in the areas of: 1) Enhancing NEO Detection, Tracking, and Characterization Capabilities; 2) Improving NEO Modeling, Prediction, and Information Integration; 3) Developing Technologies for NEO Deflection and Disruption Missions; 4) Increasing International Cooperation on NEO Preparation; and 5) Strengthening and Routinely Exercise NEO Impact Emergency Procedures and Action Protocols.

4.2. Presentation of the ESA’s upcoming Space Safety Programme (by ESA):

The proposed Space Safety Programme is an initiative that intends to elevate the current Space Situational Awareness to a more strategic level at ESA, to be able to proceed also with PD-related space missions. The Programme, with a mission statement “protection of our Planet, of Humanity, and assets in space and on Earth from dangers originating in Space” contains three main areas for space safety, namely - Space Weather, Planetary Defence, and Space Debris and Clean Space (prevention and remediation). A Space Safety Office, including a Planetary Defence Office, has already been established.  Space Safety as a programme will be put before the next ESA Ministerial Council by the ESA Director-General at the end of 2019.

4.3. Report by the SMPAG Legal Working Group

The SMPAG Legal WG Coordinator, Line Drube, gave an overview of the conclusions of the report, written in 2017 and 2018 by the members of the SMPAG Legal WG. The report contains an overview and legal assessment related to planetary defence, identifying what is permissible and what is prohibited under the current treaties and agreements in international space law. Line Drube presented recommendations resulting from the report. The SMPAG Legal WG encouraged comments to the report by 7 November 2018 for the Group to finalize the report by the end of November. It was pointed out that this report contains the views of the members of the SMPAG Legal WG and does not necessarily express the views of national governments, ministries or agencies. SMPAG commended the Legal WG and all its members for the hard work in producing this comprehensive report. SMPAG also discussed the way forward related to publication of the report, both in academic papers and possibly, as a conference room paper, made available to delegations at the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of COPUOS, possibly also to the Legal Subcommittee, for information and awareness-building on the topic by member States, once the SMPAG approves it at its next meeting in February. The report will also be presented at the Planetary Defense Conference (PDC) 2019.

SMPAG also discussed the future of the SMPAG Legal WG. SMPAG decided that the Working Group should continue to exist and provide advice and suggestions on legal matters to SMPAG on a continuous basis. SMPAG thanked Line Drube in her role as a coordinator of the report. Due to Line’s new professional assignments, Alissa Hadaji was nominated as the new coordinator of the SMPAG Legal WG.

4.4. UNISPACE+50

The UNOOSA representative informed SMPAG on the outcomes of UNISPACE+50 convened on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE), on 20 to 21 June 2018 in Vienna, including the way forward for developing a “Space2030” agenda and its implementation plan by member States of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) within a dedicated working group. Any recommendations for increasing planetary defence efforts and awareness could be put forward through inputs by member States.

The UN Brochure “Near-Earth Objects and Planetary Defence” (symbol ST/SPACE/73) was made available at UNISPACE+50 as an outreach material to raise awareness among UN Member States. The publication will also be made available at other space-related conferences, such as IAC, PDC 2019 etc.

4.5. Munich Institute for Astro- and Particle Physics (MIAPP) Workshop: The 4-week workshop included a variety of planetary defence topics, such as communicating science, asteroid mining, international collaboration in case of a possible threat, work of IAWN and SMPAG. The Workshop also raised questions, including whether SMPAG should deal with re-direction of asteroids for mining and whether it should recommend a reconnaissance mission.

SMPAG discussed the questions raised at the workshop regarding the issue of re-directing an asteroid for mining. The conclusion was that the scope of work of SMPAG only includes planetary defence aspect and does not include application to asteroid mining but it was agreed that SMPAG should be informed on any such activities.

SMPAG also agreed to put forward a recommendation for reconnaissance missions. Bill Ailor of IAA will prepare a draft text on this for SMPAG to consider at its next meeting in February 2019.

4.6. Erice Seminar on Planetary Emergencies: An overview was given about the seminar, held from 19 – 23 August that included a panel on planetary defence, at which work done by IAWN, SMPAG and UNOOSA were presented. The idea is that the Erice Centre for Scientific Culture could host a dedicated school and a possible workshop in the future to bring together the technical community, policy- and decision makers to discuss the process on PD related issues.

4.7. Update on missions:

  • Hayabusa2: SMPAG heard a presentation on publicly available information on the Hayabusa2 mission. The spacecraft arrived at the C-type Ryugu asteroid on 27 June 2018. Following touchdown rehearsal in early September, the MASCOT lander was deployed on 3 October.  
  • OSIRIS-REx: Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer, launched in September 2016 is scheduled to arrive at Bennu in December 2018. It will survey the asteroid and start its sample collection activities in 2020, with sample return in 2023.
  • DART: Targeting the double asteroid Didymos system, to arrive in October 2022. The aim is to test the kinetic impactor technique, which is an action directly linked to the goal 3 of the US National NEO Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan. The mission has been confirmed for full scale development.
  • Hera mission planned objectives were presented, among them the measurement of momentum transfer efficiency from the DART impact on the moon of Didymos. The mission is currently in phase B1, full funding will be requested at the ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial level at the end of 2019.

5) IAA Planetary Defense Conference, 29 April to 3 May 2019

Bill Ailor presented the preparations for the 2019 PDC conference, which will take place from 29 April to 3 May 2019 in the Washington D.C. area. Further information is available on a dedicated webpage at The PDC will again include a Tabletop Exercise.

The Call for papers is out. Attendance and sponsorships by space agencies and disaster response organizations is encouraged.

6) Status of work plan items

Status reports were given on the following work plan items:

5.1 Criteria and thresholds for impact response actions (NASA)

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)

5.6 Communication guidelines in case of a credible threat (NASA)

5.8 Consequences, including failure, of NEO mitigation space missions (Austrian FFG)

5.11 Toolbox for a characterisation payload (CNES).

- NASA submitted a written report on item 5.1, Criteria and thresholds for impact threat response actions.

- ASI provided update on item 5.4 – Reference missions for different NEO threat scenarios,

with a written report to be provided by February 2019.

- NASA further provided an update on item 5.5. – A draft document on Planetary Defence Action Plan for SMPAG in case of a credible threat was presented. A draft text will be shared with SMPAG members for inputs and comments shortly.

- Austrian FFG presented an update on item 5.8. Consequences, including failure, of a NEO mitigation space mission, presenting several questions related to the scope and definition of consequences. SMPAG members are invited to provide inputs. A dedicated meeting on this topic is envisaged.

- Regarding item 5.10, the Study of the nuclear option, which is still without a lead, it was said that a NASA/JPL NEO Deflection App will soon include the nuclear option that will enable a comparison with the kinetic impactor option. Providing there is a lead under this item, the activity could be initiated at the next meeting.

- A report on a splinter meeting on item 5.11 Toolbox for a characterisation payload, was provided by CNES in writing.

The SMPAG Chair initiated a general discussion on workplan items. It was suggested to combine tasks and give priority to a few tasks to expedite the delivery of results.  The aim is to increase the visibility of SMPAG in technical matters. Possibly, items 5.2, 5.3. and 5.4 on mitigation mission types and technologies; mapping of threat scenarios and reference mission types, respectively, could be combined. The discussion on the way forward for those three workplan items is still on-going. The item 5.11 Toolbox for NEO characterization could also be prioritized.

The SMPAG Chair further proposed a change in the Workplan structure. The overview/rationale of workplan items would remain, however, the text would not be updated in the Workplan itself. Instead, there would be an indication of the status of the item (active or not). In addition, available outputs under each item will be referenced. The SMPAG Secretariat will maintain this workplan.

7) Next SMPAG meeting:

The 12th meeting of SMPAG will be scheduled in conjunction with the 56th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (11-22 February 2019), on Wednesday, 13 February 2019, at the Vienna International Centre.