NE Asteroid Mining

Global Nominee

NE Asteroid Mining received a Global Nomination.

THE CHALLENGE: Asteroid Mining
Solar System

Develop an approach for characterizing the composition of asteroid for mining potential and a process for mining different compositions. Explore a possible division of labor involving different types of vehicles (e.g. sensor units, drilling units, power gathering and distribution, extracted resources handling and transferring). Consider solutions for moving said asteroids between different orbits and/or consequently make periodical adjustments to keep them in place. Analyze how your idea would cope in some of the given scenarios or outline a scheme of your own.


Team Star-Whals, Asteroid Mining Challenge

For the 2016 Space Apps Challenge at the NASA Glen Research Center, the Star-Whals team has created a space mission to obtain scarce and useful material, and scientific data from a near earth asteroid. Our method is to move an asteroid into a stable orbit in close proximity to the Earth, to allow economic access for mining and research.

Asteroid 2000SG344 was chosen for its promising composition, size, orbital location and velocity. 2000SG344 has a mass of 7.1x107 Kg with a diameter of 37 meters. 2000SG344 will be at the correct location for a mission lunch date of 04/22/2024. Mission duration will be 1008 days. Data about 2000SG344 and mission planning information was obtained from the NASA Near Earth Object Program and the JPL.

The main space vehicles and hardware used for the mission are: a mother ship with a 40KW reactor, asteroid surface impactors, and a sensor array; a mining lander; a gathering drone; and an ion propulsion module.

The mission will begin with the mother ship traveling to and entering orbit around asteroid 2000SG344. The asteroid’s value for retrieval will be determined by releasing kinetic surface impactors, which will scatter asteroid material into space. This material will then be analyzed by sensors on the mother ship. When the presence of desirable material is verified the mission will advance to moving the asteroid.

To move 2000SG344 into the desired orbit its velocity must be changed by 440 m/s. This delta V will be achieved over a two year period by a combination of three methods.

1) Mass Ejection. Controlled and powered by the mother ship, the mining lander and gathering drone will be deployed to the asteroid’s surface. The mining lander is comprised of three main sections. A mining section which uses microwave energy to emolliate rock. A heated centrifuge section to separate volatile gasses and form solid projectiles. A gun which will use the volatile gases to fire the projectiles into space, thus providing the mass ejection reaction needed to change the asteroids velocity. Addition material will be supplied by the gathering drone, which will collect and deposit regolith into the centrifuge. Mass ejection will supply 90% of the required delta V, while using 7% of the mass of 2000SG344.

2) An ion propulsion module will provide 40% of the required delta V.

3) Gravity assist while entering the desired orbit will provide 20% of the required delta V.

These three methods can provide 150% of the required delta V.

2000SG344 will be moved into orbit at Lagrange Point L1 of the Earth-Moon system. From this presently empty point in space, between the Earth and Moon, asteroid 2000SG344 will be accessible for scientific research; and its material will be available for use on Earth, and in construction projects in Earth orbit and at colonies on the Moon.

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