The Dragonfly made it to the People's Choice Semi-Finals (Top 25)
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.
*Sensing Your Opportunities in Space*
In the very near future, asteroid mining may become one of the primary ways to successfully fuel the outward expansion of humankind, and the continued exploration of space. With both government and commercial entities showing a renewed interest in space, it has become clear that the expense of bringing materials up to orbit is financially untenable for significant space-bound operations; and so the race for identifying potential asteroids for mining, being able to analyze them, and then deploying mining equipment and/or the ability to change their orbits is heating up.
In addition, the continued potential for an *Angry Asteroid*, an asteroid with the ability to cause widespread damage to the Earth and humans haunts us like never before! The same techniques that can be developed for commercial mining of an asteroid could instead be redirected to saving humankind from destruction.
Drawing on our team’s diverse background in design, programming, engineering, and economics we created a modularized system that has the following abilities:
Team Dragonfly's methods, STL files, electronics, pictures, presentation, and in in-depth discussion on what it will take for asteroid mining this to be successful (economics, sensors, etc...) is presented here in full, Open Sourced (MIT License), and available for anyone to interact with, or improve.
The best place to start is the 30-second video found on [YouTube]. For a more in-depth view, our presentation [PPTX (recommended)], or [PDF] is the next stop. The musical score for this project is, of course, [Below the Asteroids].
Comprehensive information on the entire project is available in the detailed write-up below. Information on the sensors and our creation of sensor prototypes is located [here]. The models for the satellites are located [here]. Finally, various images from this project can be found [here].
Scenario and Mission Statement
**Scenario:** Current + 50 years in the future. This project can be created with modern technology (sensors, fuel, small sizes, etc...), but we also looked into the future for additional capabilities. One of those is the existence of a moon base, an ongoing mission to reach Mars, and an active planetary protection program. From this moon base we are able to have some basic refining and manufacturing processes in place. The moon base is dependent on materials found within space.
**Our mission:** We will build and send Dragonflies - exploratory micro satellites - that can define more precise estimates of asteroid composition than Earth-bound techniques and send the data back to moon base to verify that the asteroid is suitable for actual mining and exploration processes. Once a suitable asteroid is identified it will be captured and retrieved for mining. The materials that are mined will be used not only to sustain the moon base, but also to support the ongoing Mission to Mars, as well as to study how best to protect the Earth from a potential asteroid impact.
Ideal Elements for Mining
In order to fulfill our mission it is important to find, extract, refine, and return materials useful to sustaining life in space and furthering exploration. We have identified the key materials to sustain human life and promote further space exploration below. Having these elements available will ensure that we are able to produce air to breath, fuel (including radioactive materials) and other propellants for further exploration, and key elements for fertilizers to grow food.
Important Mining Targets include:
Using spectroscopy many elements from the list above have already been found in asteroids. Unfortunately, the majority of asteroids, especially smaller asteroids are still unidentified and it is unclear what they are composed of. In addition, even if the elements are found, it might not be feasible to mine specific types of elements from an energy and cost perspective. To better understand what elements are available and accessible to mine you must first understand what types of asteroids are near to Earth, and which make economic sense to mine (for planetary protection, this obviously is not a consideration).
There are three key asteroid groups currently identified:
*In order to fulfill our mission of deriving materials to support the moonbase and the Mission to Mars, it is necessary to focus on C-type asteroids (which include B, F, G, and C-type asteroids).*
There are several key reasons to mine C type asteroids:
(One 75 meter Class C type asteroid has all the water you need to run all 135 space missions to date.)
Now that we have identified the key type of asteroid we are interested in mining, we need to evaluate which of these are nearby and accessible from our moonbase.
Below are the important factors for determining if an asteroid is accessible and a good target:
Now that we have all the key requirements for identifying a valuable and accessible NEMO, we can identify potential targets for exploration.
Identifying C-type Asteroids from the Moon Base
We can use three key technologies from our moon base (as well as some observations from earth) to identify potential targets for further exploration. We will use infrared and optical telescopes with radar, Doppler, and infrared spectroscopy capabilities. These telescopes will be located on the dark side of the moon to avoid glare and aid in identifying the "dark" C-type asteroids. We will combine infrared, radar, and Doppler data to identify size, location, speed, rotation, and composition of NEMOs for further exploration.
Sample Target - 2001 SN263
We have identified a key target for the first mission- the triple asteroid cluster 2001 SN263.
2001 SN263 is an ideal target for a number of reasons including:
The Dragonfly - How it Works
**Launch Payload:** The launcher (rocket) system is a modular, easy construction system that contains four Dragonflies around the core Javelin miniature satellites. With our assumption of being able to launch from the shallow gravitational well of the moon, we are at a significant advantage over launching from Earth both due to fuel amounts (as well as their costs), as well as the overall complexity of the launcher. After the mining or deflection target has been identified by the sensor systems on the moon and Earth, the launch can be quickly set-up. After the launch, the Dragonflies are let loose in their cluster formation, followed by the Javelin which ‘telescopes’ out and sets a course towards the target that it will embed. The rest of launcher assembly is then picked up for re-use.
**Dragonfly:** The Dragonfly Cluster is a set of modular, medium-production satellites (each Dragonfly - #) that are designed to cluster around a potential prospecting target and closely analyze it at various altitudes for mineralogical composition data. Asteroid prospecting needs to focus on a set of materials such as the list provided above in order to fuel future space mining, provide a profit motive, and to protect the planet from the potential impact of the asteroid. The individual satellites carry a modular sensor package that augments the other satellites (for a cluster of at least four). Communication between the satellites is done via a built-in mesh-net to provide interferometry, location, and other data and navigational aspects. Communication back to the home base is accomplished via a standard NASA DSN and X-band communication method.
**Javelin:** An additional part of the payload is the Javelin satellite which contains a ‘telescopic’ mini-bore module that is designed to uncompact during flight, and then embed itself in the soft regolith of the asteroid. It has a few key components, namely the two (or more) stage telescopic system for size elongation (a good analogue is the system used in umbrellas), the hollow of the actual system, a set of reverse fins that serve both to anchor the stages, and to not allow the reverse motion of the module, as well as a full sensor package within the outer and inner shell. The ability to embedded itself into the soft regolith at a depth of 2, 3, even 10 meters will provide much better data about the composition of the asteroid, its mining potential, as well as scientific data. Furthermore, depending on the makeup of the system and the depth of embedding, the Javelin can be used as the anchor point(s) for an orbital control system.
Modular sensor package on **Dragonfly**. Will be put in and taken out as needed.
Modular sensor package on **Javelin**. Will be put in and taken out as needed.
Post Analysis Mining and Extraction
In an ideal scenario, multiple Javelins will be deployed to a target at strategic locations and attached to either a solar sail or an Ion Engine. This will allow for slow, cheap orbital maneuvering. This can system can then move the asteroid to a Lagrange Point, around the orbit of the moon, or in the case of a dangerous asteroid, nudge it out of a collision course. The same can be said for the Dragonflies which will monitor the mining rig.
Once a NEMO is in position (or if the mining and refining are to be on site), the drilling or dust/layering rig will be put into position. An option for this was proposed by the [Star-Whals](https://2016.spaceappschallenge.org/challenges/solar-system/asteroid-mining/projects/ne-asteroid-mining).
Opportunity to turn threats into profit centers. Opportunity to fuel our expansion to Mars, and the rest of the Solar System.
Dragonfly has been created by Team Dragonfly for the NASA SpaceApps Challenge 2016 hosted at NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Information on Asteroid Types and Composition: http://www.astronomysource.com/tag/m-type-asteroid...
Review of Asteroid Compositions: http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/onlinebks/Resources...
Asteroid Density, Porosity, and Structure: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/books/AsteroidsIII/pdf/302...
Asteroids as Source of Precious Metals: http://www.outofthecradle.net/WordPress/wp-content...
Database of NEOs: http://www.asterank.com/3d/
Information on Asteroid Mining: http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/#asteroids-market-opportunity
Information on Picking Asteroid Mining Targets: http://www.planetaryresources.com/2015/08/how-we-c...
Information on identifying asteroids from Earth/Moon: http://www.permanent.com/asteroids-discovering.htm...
Information on identifying asteroids from Earth/Moon: http://www.planetary.org/multimedia/space-images/c...
Information on identifying asteroids from Earth/Moon: http://smass.mit.edu/