Russia plans to target near-Earth asteroid with ICBMs

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In the year 2036, if man is still alive, Russia is planning to target a near-Earth asteroid with modified ICBMs.

Russian scientists will test the modified missiles on the asteroid 99942 Apophis, Sabit Saitgarayev, the leading researcher at the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau, told TASS news agency.

bt_011013_13Saitgarayev believes Apophis may pass “dangerously close” to Earth in 2036. NASA, however, has “effectively ruled out the possibility” of an impact.

It will take many millions of rubles and permission from the Kremlin for the scientists to modify the solid-fueled ICBMs.

“Most rockets work on boiling fuel,” Saitgarayev said. “Their fueling begins 10 days before the launch and, therefore, they are unfit for destroying meteorites similar to the Chelyabinsk meteorite in diameter, which are detected several hours before coming close to the Earth. For this purpose, intercontinental ballistic missiles can be used, which requires their upgrade.”

If the plan comes to fruition, the modified missiles could be aimed at meteorites measuring 20-50 meters in size, Saitgarayev said. A meteorite is a chunk of debris that can originate from a sun-orbiting asteroid and survive the trip through the atmosphere to reach Earth’s surface.

The Makeyev Design Bureau, established in 1947, specializes in developing long-rockets designed by the OKB-1 (Experimental Design Bureau), which was led by pioneering rocket designer Sergei Korolov.

Under Korolov’s direction, Moscow launched the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957, and put the first man in space in 1961.

Maketev OKB began developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles in the mid-1950s. Today, its rockets are used to launch Russian satellites into space.