Asteroid/Comet Resource Utilization

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emudude

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The link below is to an article on the vast variety of near earth objects' composition:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 142753.htm

Let's say we took a look at this lis, consisting only of a small assortment of precious metals, their abundance, and their price/kg, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Platinum 5 ppb @$49995/kg
Rhodium 1 ppb @$88415/kg
Gold 4 ppb @$36370/kg
Iridium 1 ppb @$13117/kg
Osmium 1.5 ppb @$12217/kg
Palladium 15 ppb @$13632/kg
Rhenium 0.7 ppb @$6250/kg
Ruthenium 1 ppb @$5562/kg
Germanium 1500 ppb @$1038/kg
Beryllium 2800 ppb @$850/kg[citation needed]
Silver 75 ppb @$588/kg
Gallium 19000 ppb @$413/kg
Indium 250 ppb @$520/kg
Tellurium 1 ppb @$158.70/kg
Mercury 85 ppb @$15.95/kg
Bismuth 8.5 ppb @$18.19/kg

At roughly $50 000 USD per kg, platinum is the obvious choice to target for an initial robotic retrieval mission. Assuming an outlandish $10 000 000 000 000 program to develop and launch the retrieval/processing of the materials (worst case scenario), we would need 200MT of platinum to break even. Assuming the cost of the ISS, which is still extremely expensive at $100 000 000 000, we would need 2MT.

The mars rover missions cost around $800 million in total to design, build, launch, and support. Let's say, for all the conventional chemical fuel we would need to have in orbit, the price to get the harvesting robot, which will send the resource to earth orbit if the political climate is right, or to the moon - at a higher cost as MeteorWayne pointed out earlier - if it is not, totals $5 billion. At this point, we would need only 100 tonnes of platinum to break even.

Unless the unthinkable happens and we harness a massive energy production source, i.e. nuclear fusion or any antimatter technology, we won't be able to manufacture the elements we need, and will have to mine - whether on earth or in space - to get these precious commodities. All we need is for our astronomers to identify potential goldmines (or platinum-mines, in our case), and we may be in for an exciting new expansion in commercial space activities, once the numbers get crunched :mrgreen:
 
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samkent

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the easiest is to scoop matter from saturns rings with a drone craft and return it to leo
I can hear the public out cry now.



For all you business majors out there.

At roughly $50 000 USD per kg, platinum is the obvious choice to target for an initial robotic retrieval mission.
What happens to the price of a commodity if the supply doubles but the demand remains the same?

Some asteriods contain significant amounts of platinum. So much so that the value of the platinum would pay for the equipment to mine it and bring it back to earth by a factor of 10.
That’s a dream.
 
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SteveCNC

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samkent":1wvlqxum said:
I can hear the public out cry now.
Yeah I'm sure of that though I would be curious just how many tons (earth weight) would the rings have and how long would it take to deplete them if say 50 tons were brought back per ship per trip .
 
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Boris_Badenov

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SteveCNC":3dh3toj8 said:
samkent":3dh3toj8 said:
I can hear the public out cry now.
Yeah I'm sure of that though I would be curious just how many tons (earth weight) would the rings have and how long would it take to deplete them if say 50 tons were brought back per ship per trip .
A little less than 900 million metric tons in just the main rings.
 
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Yuri_Armstrong

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samkent":1l7a384l said:
That’s a dream.
If our space program of the past had this type of thinking then we wouldn't have gotten anywhere.
 
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samkent

Guest
If our space program of the past had this type of thinking then we wouldn't have gotten anywhere.
It’s fine to have dreams. Just don’t talk about them as if it’s plausible in the foreseeable future. The economics don’t come close to making sense. And there is nothing on the drawing board that changes the equation.


A little less than 900 million metric tons in just the main rings.

The Earth has roughly 1352900000000000000 tons of water already. So we need to import more of it at the expense of the beauty of Saturn???
 
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Yuri_Armstrong

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samkent":vdcfy62m said:
It’s fine to have dreams. Just don’t talk about them as if it’s plausible in the foreseeable future. The economics don’t come close to making sense. And there is nothing on the drawing board that changes the equation.
I agree that it won't be happening any time soon. But in about 3 or 4 decades I'd suspect some mining infrastructure would be at least getting set up on an asteroid, as we will likely have dispatched a manned mission to one by then. The big accomplishment I see happening in this decade is the rise of space tourism and private spaceflight, and hopefully space hotels. China will also be making considerable advances in their space program. In the 20's the asteroid mission may or may not come about, we may return to the moon instead (this is all heavily dependent upon politics which is very difficult to predict). In the 30's we will hopefully send Apollo style missions to Mars and may decide to stay there for settlement with government bases. By this time we will likely have an outpost on the moon, and if NASA doesn't then some other country or international organization will. In the 40's space tourism will be booming and asteroid outposts will hopefully come about. From there on it gets increasingly difficult to predict, but I see all of this as inevitable. My predictions could be ahead by 20 years or so depending on what happens. This is my personal optimistic viewpoint of the coming decades.

But you are correct, we will not be seeing asteroid mining any time soon.

The Earth has roughly 1352900000000000000 tons of water already. So we need to import more of it at the expense of the beauty of Saturn???
I don't know why he thinks Saturn is a good idea, it is very far away. Hauling water from earth to orbit is expensive, and long term outposts will be better off getting their water from asteroids or the moon. The rings of saturn aren't the only source of water aside from Earth.
 
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SteveCNC

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I'll tell you what , since the things it seems to me that should be obvious don't seem to be , I try to elaborate farther on the pros of using saturn .

One of the reason for that choice would be the fact that you never have to enter a gravity well and land on something thereby saving lots of energy that would otherwise be needed to escape the gravity well to return your load .

It would be relatively easy to send loads to different points in space like to orbit mars in fuel prep for a landing mission or return mission . Or back to LEO or possibly a lagrange point where a construction yard has been built , either way the fuel cost is minimal when compared to climbing out of a gravity well .

The ability to seperate the ring material which is 99.9% pure water with only trace elements would be pretty easy .

The ability to collect it is reasonably easy as well using a scoop method . Compare this to say the moon , for every cubic yard of soil you scoop up you will get less than a gallon of water after you use a lot of energy to heat it up and pressurize it . An asteroid will be even more complicated but might yeild actual sheets of ice (maybe but remains to be seen) .

As for the distance issue , if it takes 6 years to get the first load it dosen't matter , it's just like loading up a conveyor belt , once dirt is spilling over the top it just keeps on coming . You see the majority of the process is easily automated , it's just travelling from point A to point B and back , and if you have it set up where you send one out every 4 months it would take maybe 18 vessels to get the ball rolling and once rolling you have a steady supply of water with little involvement from people . The ship could even refuel itself while at saturn and process it's load into hydrogen/oxygen during the trip home . Having this in place would be a huge advantage when it comes time to actually land on mars .

I'm not sure you truely appreciate the cost of bringing water up from earths surface , right now the cost is $5400 per pound (spacex prices) and a gallon of water weighs just over 8 pounds . if you do the math the cost to launch just one gallon of water is $45,000 roughly . Now think about this , if you wanted to lift 20,000 gallons that would work out to $900million by todays launch costs .

Even if the cost to launch goes way down to $500 per pound that's still over $80million dollars that could be done on each load to saturn and back .

As for defacing saturn , I doubt we would make much of a dent although I do think the collection process needs to be organized as far as where it collects from .
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

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SteveCNC":1bvamqa2 said:
I'm not sure you truely appreciate the cost of bringing water up from earths surface , right now the cost is $5400 per pound (spacex prices) and a gallon of water weighs just over 8 pounds . if you do the math the cost to launch just one gallon of water is $45,000 roughly . Now think about this , if you wanted to lift 20,000 gallons that would work out to $900million by todays launch costs .

Even if the cost to launch goes way down to $500 per pound that's still over $80million dollars that could be done on each load to saturn and back .

As for defacing saturn , I doubt we would make much of a dent although I do think the collection process needs to be organized as far as where it collects from .
Actually its $5,400 per kg and $11,880 per lb. Keep it in metric since most of the launch costs use metric. Your dollar values are low by a facter of 2.2 since you are using English instead of metric.
 
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Boris_Badenov

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oldAtlas_Eguy":1vzwkiqu said:
Actually its $5,400 per kg and $11,880 per lb. Keep it in metric since most of the launch costs use metric. Your dollar values are low by a facter of 2.2 since you are using English instead of metric.
1 Kilogram is 2.2 pounds.
 
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rockett

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Everybody is talking like we can just go strip mine an asteroid. It's not anywhere near that easy. The biggest problem for asteroid and comet mining is actually extracting the material. The very asset of low to no gravity becomes a BIG problem removing it from the rock.

1. Can't use explosives, you would lose the material you are trying to extract (and produce a potload of metiorites to dodge).
2. Drills require backpressure to work, which means some kind of anchoring mechanism, and things get more complicated from there.
3. Separation of materials. You want to get EVERYTHING YOU CAN for the extremly high cost to get there.

SteveCNC's idea of scooping ice from Saturn's rings is actually extremely cost effective when compared to the above.
In fact, while you are at it, why not scoop useful gasses from the upper atmospheres of the gas giants and moons?
Methane from Titan, Hydrogen from Jupiter, etc.
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

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Boris_Badenov":3rr1osro said:
oldAtlas_Eguy":3rr1osro said:
Actually its $5,400 per kg and $11,880 per lb. Keep it in metric since most of the launch costs use metric. Your dollar values are low by a facter of 2.2 since you are using English instead of metric.
1 Kilogram is 2.2 pounds.
As always conversion is a .... It is so easy to get the factor backwards.
 
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rcsplinters

Guest
Personally, I think exploiting an asterioid for material in situ is an engineering feat still 100 - 200 years or more away unless we start spending some REALLY big bucks (like a couple of zeros on the current NASA budget) right away. Folks are grossly underestimating the physics and logistics if such an enterprise. I think Rockett is dead on course in this regard.

That said, I got a thought on how to go about it. Don't mine it in space. Mine it on the earth. Fix a booster on the rock, guide it back on a controlled reentry and drop it in a desert somewhere and mine it with conventional tools. After you are finished, fill the crater with water and you have an instant oasis. Off the wall, but makes more sense that launching a smelting plant.

Good luck getting much more than iron and nickel out of those things. I've not read many reports on aluminum, titanium, silver or gold asteroids, beyond trace amounts. I just can't see where such an endeavor has any realistic return on investment versus just launching what you need from earth.
 
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SteveCNC

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oldAtlas_Eguy":13dtuktm said:
SteveCNC":13dtuktm said:
I'm not sure you truely appreciate the cost of bringing water up from earths surface , right now the cost is $5400 per pound (spacex prices) and a gallon of water weighs just over 8 pounds . if you do the math the cost to launch just one gallon of water is $45,000 roughly . Now think about this , if you wanted to lift 20,000 gallons that would work out to $900million by todays launch costs .

Even if the cost to launch goes way down to $500 per pound that's still over $80million dollars that could be done on each load to saturn and back .

As for defacing saturn , I doubt we would make much of a dent although I do think the collection process needs to be organized as far as where it collects from .
Actually its $5,400 per kg and $11,880 per lb. Keep it in metric since most of the launch costs use metric. Your dollar values are low by a facter of 2.2 since you are using English instead of metric.
No , I looked up the price per pound , no conversion needed article
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

Guest
rockett":22f530jd said:
Everybody is talking like we can just go strip mine an asteroid. It's not anywhere near that easy. The biggest problem for asteroid and comet mining is actually extracting the material. The very asset of low to no gravity becomes a BIG problem removing it from the rock.

1. Can't use explosives, you would lose the material you are trying to extract (and produce a potload of metiorites to dodge).
2. Drills require backpressure to work, which means some kind of anchoring mechanism, and things get more complicated from there.
3. Separation of materials. You want to get EVERYTHING YOU CAN for the extremly high cost to get there.

SteveCNC's idea of scooping ice from Saturn's rings is actually extremely cost effective when compared to the above.
In fact, while you are at it, why not scoop useful gasses from the upper atmospheres of the gas giants and moons?
Methane from Titan, Hydrogen from Jupiter, etc.
There are two obious methodologies to mine an asteroid: the chunk method – break off chunks at a size that can be handled, the grind and vacuum method – cover the grinding area with a pressurized dome using a very low pressure 0.5psi and circulate the air through a collection bag on the outside of the dome that is then carried to a processing plant then once the bag is emptied using reverse flow take the bag back to the dome for refill. You would need to be able to process the material to get nitrogen or oxygen to replace the gas lost during mining.

There are various pitfalls for both. Drilling or grinding in a vacuum has problems with overheating the drill heads, so the pressure dome would have to hold enough pressure and a heat exchanger to keep the grinding head cool. For the purely vacuum drill materials (synthetic diamond or similar) with a drill head, internal cooling complicates the drill. As metioned before all methods have to have anchors to the asteroid or they will float away as a reaction of pressing into the surface. To do an anchor some sort of drilling or impactor is needed. Then if the surface is only simi-hard and fractures easily anchors may not work. Then a cable that circles the asteroid could be used but on big bodies that is a weight problem.
 
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rockett

Guest
My point was, either lunar OR Mars processing is already underway and being experimented with. A simple Google search produces a bunch of links dating back 20 years.

There just just far too much development required for asteroid processing to be done yet. When you look at the ROI, the moon looks a lot more attractive (especially when it comes to H3).
 
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DarkenedOne

Guest
rockett":2pkha2tb said:
My point was, either lunar OR Mars processing is already underway and being experimented with. A simple Google search produces a bunch of links dating back 20 years.

There just just far too much development required for asteroid processing to be done yet. When you look at the ROI, the moon looks a lot more attractive (especially when it comes to H3).
The problem for insitu is simple. NASA will not fund robotic demonstration mission to test it in the field. Many of these technology have been tested as extensively as they can here on Earth.

So to me it is a mute point. Unless someone is willing to fund these missions to see if the technology actually works then there is really no point in debating it.
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

Guest
DarkenedOne":1ptc2iuc said:
rockett":1ptc2iuc said:
My point was, either lunar OR Mars processing is already underway and being experimented with. A simple Google search produces a bunch of links dating back 20 years.

There just just far too much development required for asteroid processing to be done yet. When you look at the ROI, the moon looks a lot more attractive (especially when it comes to H3).
The problem for insitu is simple. NASA will not fund robotic demonstration mission to test it in the field. Many of these technology have been tested as extensively as they can here on Earth.

So to me it is a mute point. Unless someone is willing to fund these missions to see if the technology actually works then there is really no point in debating it.
There are several companies that are willing to sell truckloads of lunar regolith simulant to researchers and inventors to test out processing equipment. It’s actually a small industry. If NASA gets into the research for insitu asteroid processing maybe there is a opportunity for companies providing asteroid simulant.
 
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SpaceForAReason

Guest
I only have one comment to this thread. Explosives. That is why mining in microgravity does not work. Any other method of mining simply does not yield enough product in a timely fashion. When you can figure out how to make a profit out there without killing yourself, let me know. ;)
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

Guest
Take an asteroid like 2010 RF12 which is 23 meters across weighing not more than 8000MT. This asteroid is in a very close earth orbit. It would require small delta V to capture and move it to high earth orbit (14 day orbit- half lunar). Safety risk to earth is minimal because of its small size. There are probably hundreds of these of this size in NEO suitable for capture. An unmanned tug vehicle could do it over several years of maneuvers. Any material in earth orbit is worth at least $250 per kg so this little guy would be worth about $2 billion or more depending on the material makeup. So if the development cost and tug hardware cost is spread over 6 years – three captures would result in revenue of $6 billion in material. If a company can’t make that pay with a high ROI then space will never be developed.

Consortiums will probably do the space development with each member specializing in a particular part: an asteroid wrangler, a materials processor, construction, and operator. The operator uses the hardware and sells a service to others like beamed power or selling fuel. The asteroid wrangler sells the asteroid to the materials processor, the materials processor sells the finished products to the construction and operator, and the constructor sells equipment to the operator. At each level 20% is added to the price. So for original $1000 per kg ends up as $1728 per kg if all of the asteroid material is used, most likely only 50% is usable, then the end value is $3456. This is too high. It should be less than $900 per kg so the original asteroid is worth only $250 per kg or the three asteroids at total of $6 billion.

This problem makes making a profit off of space difficult. Because of this the worth of raw material cannot be compared to launch costs from earth, but the total weight of finished products made from the materiel delivered to where it would be used.

An example is SPS. For SPS to make money finished product delivered to GEO should be less than $1000 per kg or about 10 cents per kilowatt delivered power to the Earth grid.

The current average launch price rate is ~$7000 per kg, so if you are a launch provider and your price is more than that you will go out of business. The Delta IV Heavy is $6000. As launches get more numerous and the weight capability goes up the price rate will go down. Current near term within 5 years is (Falcon 9 Heavy) $3500 for cheapest a reduction of 18% over the current cheapest of (Russian Proton) $4300. In ten years that would be $2870. In twenty $1929. In thirty $1297. Market pressure will cause more expensive launchers to be retired as the average price drops. So as a company and you are not developing a cheaper booster now, your launch business will be drastically reduced or non-existent ten years from now.
 
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MeteorWayne

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oldAtlas_Eguy":24jieqop said:
Take an asteroid like 2010 RF12 which is 23 meters across weighing not more than 8000MT. .
Uhhh, 6-14 meters... and won't come closer than 22 X the distance to the moon before 2047....
but don't let facts get in the way :)
 
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HopDavid

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oldAtlas_Eguy":3pqnjt7p said:
Take an asteroid like 2010 RF12 which is 23 meters across weighing not more than 8000MT. This asteroid is in a very close earth orbit. It would require small delta V to capture and move it to high earth orbit (14 day orbit- half lunar).
Hmmm. 2010 RF12 was moving 6 kilometers/sec at its .2 lunar distance perigee. My quick guesstimate is 3 or 4 km/sec to capture it to high earth orbit.

In which case it would take 8000 to 12000MT of oxygen and hydrogen propellent to park it in earth orbit. That's assuming the tug's propellent tanks and rocket engines weigh nothing.
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

Guest
Using engines with only 450 ISP will never be economical. That is why all of the economic studies for use of resources in space use electric propulsion with 10000 to 30000 or more ISP engines.
 
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EarthlingX

Guest
Let's see :
1. 10m sphere has a volume of (4/3)*pi*r^3 = 4188,79 m3 (approximately)
Assuming density of 2 kg/l, or 2 t/m3 = 8377,58 t

2. Abusing Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation, assuming ΔV = 3 km/s, Isp = 30 000 s and starting mass from above, gives
8377,58 t * e^( (-3000m/s) / (30 000s*9.81m/s2) ) = 8292,53 or difference approximately 85 t.

3. Assuming 250 $/kg this is worth 2 073 132 500 $.

4. Using SpaceX Falcon 9 to put 100t in GTO = 1 196 581 196,58 $

Adjust accordingly.

btw., i think that Zenit would be cheaper.
 
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