In 2011 the European Commission issued a call for proposals, as part of its seventh research Framework Program (FP7), for projects to address the near-Earth object (NEO) impact hazard and feasible mitigation measures.

The NEOShield project, proposed by a consortium of 13 partner organizations from academia and industry, received funding for 3.5 years from January 2012 (Harris et al., 2013).

The main areas addressed by NEOShield include NEO physical characterization, laboratory experiments to investigate the material properties of asteroid analogue materials, NEO modelling and computer simulations, a trade-off study of different deflection techniques, and detailed designs of deflection test missions.

The NEOShield consortium

The NEOShield consortium consisted of a number of world-leading European research institutes, the most NEO-experienced European space industry, and leading US and Russian space research institutes.

The project benefited from a broad combination of scientific/technical expertise and experience, and the management competence of major international players in the space field.

The NEOShield project was coordinated by the DLR’s Institute of Planetary Research.


Short descriptions of consortium partners

Airbus Defence and Space

DLR Institute of Planetary Research

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

DEIMOS Space Sociedad Limitada Unipersonal


Observatoire de Paris

The Queen’s University of Belfast


The Open UniversityOpen University logo

The Open University (OU) is the UK’s largest University with over 250,000 students and is the only university dedicated to distance learning. In addition to the main campus at Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, the OU has 13 regional centres in the UK and employs 4,700 academic, support and administrative staff as well as over 7000 tutors. The OU’s Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute (PSSRI) is probably the largest research group in the UK in its field which spans the cosmo-chemical, physical and bio-geochemical nature of the Solar System, with over 80 staff including 10 academics, ~35 research staff and ~25 research students. It houses an extensive suite of first class laboratory facilities. The analytical facilities include NanoSIMS, FIB-SEM, isotope mass spectrometers, GCMS, laser Raman microprobe UV/optical/IR spectroscopy. Other facilities include the Hypervelocity Impact Laboratory (2MV electrostatic accelerator and all-angle Light Gas Gun) and planetary environment simulation facilities.  PSSRI is an integral part of the Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research, established in 2004 to enable and encourage interdisciplinary research.

SETI Institute Corporation, Carl Sagan CenterCarl Sagan Centre logo

The Carl Sagan Center (CSC), a division of the non-profit SETI Institute located in Mountain View California, focuses on a wide set of disciplines ranging from observing and modeling the precursors of life in the depths of outer space to studies of Earth, where we are attempting to learn more about how life began and how its many diverse forms have survived and evolved. Appropriate to the sweeping scope of this research, CSC has many partners in its work including NASA, the National Science Foundation, and major universities. Close contacts are maintained between CSC and the neighbouring NASA-Ames Research Center, with which CSC staff collaborate on a number of projects. CSC scientists generate their own funding through outside grants, usually from NASA or the National Science Foundation. The institute’s excellent management and demonstrated ability to minimize overheads thereby maximizing funds available to conduct the actual research has helped the Institute build a strong reputation as an efficient home for researchers. Scientists in the SETI Institute’s Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe explores these and other fundamental questions through a research program consisting of more than 30 externally funded, peer-reviewed projects.

Russian Federal Space Agency, Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIImash)Tsniimash logo

TsNIImash (Tsentralny Nauchno-Issledovatelskiy Institut Mashinostroeniya, Russian Federal Space Agency, Central Research Institute of Machine Building) is the leading Research Institute of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos. TsNIImash is responsible for system level analysis of space projects, the development of the Russian space program, integrated analysis of space technologies, standardization and unification of space systems, space vehicle strength and structure analysis, flight navigation and control, etc. Almost all Russian space vehicles and launchers have been subject to thorough examination and intensively tested experimentally in TsNIImash facilities. TsNIIMash conducts multidisciplinary research in support of the new directions of the national space program, integrating proposals of the country’s rocket and space industry and academia. TsNIImash possesses twenty years experience in international cooperation, in particular with European organizations such as ESA, ESTEC, CNES, Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault, etc. TsNIIMash leads a programme of NEO-related research together with the country’s industry, academia and universities. Issues related to early warning in the case of a 100 m-class NEO collision have been investigated. The Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Astronomy is a close collaborator in this field. The Russian space industry possesses a significant amount of experience in designing prototype deflection missions, including NPO Lavochkin’s Apophis and Makeev Design Bureau’s Kaissa/Kapkan. There is also a strong research team dealing with blast deflection issues. Having an active part in the country’s manned spaceflight program, TsNIIMash has unique experience of studying the re-entry of descent modules and break-up of spacecraft in the atmosphere, gaining crucial knowledge applicable to the behaviour of an NEO during passage through the atmosphere.

Surrey Space Centre, University Of SurreySurrey SSC logo

The Surrey Space Centre, under the faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering within the University of Surrey, is a fully integrated mix of world class academic research teams whose aim is to underpin the technical development of the small space industry. The Surrey Space Centre develops new innovative technologies which are exploited by the burgeoning small satellite industry, including the University of Surrey’s commercial company Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL). The academic programme provides enhanced capabilities for satellites whilst maintaining a low cost platform and exploits the latest in off-the-shelf technologies. The history of the Surrey Space Centre dates back to the early 1980s. In 1981 a group of academic and research staff working in what was then the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Surrey were responsible for the design and manufacture of UoSAT-1, a 50 kg micro-satellite conceived and built in less than 30 months at a cost of less than 0.5M pounds. The success of this mission led to a second microsatellite, UoSAT-2, being built and launched in 1984. Having contributed to the design and launch of 26 spacecraft SSC has a strong practical perspective in space research. Over the last two decades the Space Centre has established a reputation for the development of innovative systems and demonstrated a number of firsts in the area of small satellite use and of developing novel space mission concepts, such as satellite de-orbiting, earth observation with small satellite constellations and asteroid deflection just to name some. Surrey is currently working on satellite de-orbiting space missions funded by industry and the EU (FP7) as well as on gravity tractor concepts for asteroid deflection. The wide knowledge base SSC can call upon makes it a world leader in developing innovative solutions for small satellites and new space concepts/systems.

University of BernUniversity of bern

The Physics Institute of the University of Bern in Switzerland is a NEOShield Project Advisor. The space division of the institute conducts research into the history, origin and early evolution of planetary systems. Their expertise in the numerical modelling of impacts will be beneficial for the project, in particular for the impact experiments and simulations aimed at characterising the deflection efficiency of an asteroid following impact by a kinetic impactor.