Question How feasible is it now or in the near future to have atomic or molecular beams to transport simple material to the ISS?

Nov 13, 2020
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I, as well as I'm sure most of you, hear regularly how expensive it is to transport material (or people) to space even to the International Space Station (ISS) in low earth orbit. I'm sure it wouldn't be as practical for complex molecules but could beams of simple molecules like H2O, O2 or something with carbon be sent to the ISS via a directed molecular beam. I read there are molecular as well as atomic beams but what is their range that they would still be fairly focused? Also what technical ability is available now to put up a receiving dish or something like that of the molecular or atomic beam on the ISS to receive this beam of water, molecular oxygen or other simple molecules or atoms so they could be received and also not damage the structure of the ISS? I think these beams would have a tendency to spread out with distance from their source but I did read that these beams can be collimated. (Does that mean that can be kept more focused over greater distances in a narrower beam? I think if space scientists could get this molecular or atomic beam technology for peaceful uses to bring up to the space station most of the H2O, O2 or other simple molecules either the astronauts or perhaps some of the experimenters there need in great and steady quantities it could be cheaper than sending this material by rocket, even by SpaceX, to the ISS. But how feasible is this molecular or atomic beam technology to supply basic materials to the ISS or future private space stations or perhaps also with simple carbon or nitrogen containing molecules to the Moon in that case would it also be cheaper than mining these materials on the Moon? Anyway, I would be interested to hear from other people who know something more technically in the field of transmitting and receiving molecular or atomic beams to transport simple materials in quantity to space stations in LEO or even more distant bases.
 
Nov 19, 2021
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A molecular beam could only travel in a vacuum, there would be no way to get it through the atmosphere. Also, any such beam would need to be of charged particles so as to be able to accelerate them. They would then repel each other and the beam would spread out. The charged particles would be very damaging to any receiving apparatus.
There is plenty of matter at the altitude the ISS travels, its orbit decays all the time because of this. Perhaps some of this matter could be collected on a very cold surface?
 
Dec 2, 2019
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A molecular beam could only travel in a vacuum, there would be no way to get it through the atmosphere. Also, any such beam would need to be of charged particles so as to be able to accelerate them. They would then repel each other and the beam would spread out. The charged particles would be very damaging to any receiving apparatus.
There is plenty of matter at the altitude the ISS travels, its orbit decays all the time because of this. Perhaps some of this matter could be collected on a very cold surface?
Collecting random atomic material floating in space is an interesting thought. However, it seems to me that the lack of atmosphere is an example of just how sparse these atoms ultimately are. I think trying to collect this material on ultra cold surfaces presents problems of its own.
Primarily, due to the sparseness of the material, the collector would need to be of enormous size to gather material in sufficient amounts for it to be useful just to conduct experiments much less gathering material for supply purposes for human consumption.
Perhaps some sort of magnetic field could be placed far enough away from the ISS so that it has sufficient distance as to not interfere with ISS electronic operations and other experiments. The magnetic field could then be used to draw in stray atomic material that could then be designed to produce more complex molecular compounds.
It's an interesting proposal that parallels some ideas I've been having about calculating solar mass and the life cycles of stars. We know that our sun is massive when compared to other bodies in our solar system, and we know that they all collect material constantly as they travel through the universe.
How much does the sun collect with its incredible mass and magnetic fields and how does that increased mass affect the life cycle of our sun?
Is the energy output of our sun affected by the additional mass collected? If so, in what way?
Answering these questions may bring insight into energy/matter transmission for ISS supply alternatives.
 
May 14, 2021
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Wikipedia says that the earth collects about 15000 tonnes of space dust per year, about 41 tonnes per day, but Earth is a large target, much larger than any spacecraft, and it has sufficient gravity to help.
 
Dec 3, 2021
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Wikipedia says that the earth collects about 15000 tonnes of space dust per year, about 41 tonnes per day, but Earth is a large target, much larger than any spacecraft, and it has sufficient gravity to help.
Still, with the extreme sparsity of pretty much anything in low earth orbit, any hopes for this being economically feaseable are out the window. With enough funding it could potentially make an interesting experiment, but it would be a very expensive one.
 

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