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.


One of the biggest potential problems with asteroid mining is drill erosion. Mining of the fines (such as regolith), metals, and ice found in asteroids leads to a high risk of blunting drill bits or jamming mechanisms. We have developed an innovative, versatile mining solution that can be adapted to any asteroid composition, with minimal moving parts and wear and tear.

Principles of design:

  • No erosion of drill bits
  • Using heat energy to slice through an asteroid
  • Hot knife through butter

Context of Design/Assumptions:

  • Focused on the design and automation of a small mining system
  • Able to mine most valuable asteroid minerals including water
  • The system will disconnect from a mothership/transfer stage after catching up to an asteroid
  • The asteroid will have already been chosen and analysed for mineral deposits
  • A landing zone has already been selected
  • No restrictions imposed by the mining method on potential target minerals

Design Specifics

The mining apparatus uses a spoked grid of Tungsten heated to approximately 1600 degrees to melt through a small layer of the asteroid. The mechanism then twists slicing through the layer and separating it from the surface. The loose material is collected, and this process continues down to a depth of 2m. Very little force needs to be applied to move the drill through the liquefied asteroid, resulting in little stress on the anchoring mechanisms (three pronged landing legs based using JPL's robotic microspine technology). The power required is very low at about 50W. Yield per mining attempt is approximately 500 tons of material.

A simulation has been coded to demonstrate the system's logic from deceleration burn to completion of mining.

Why Tungsten?

  • 3422 melting point- 2x more than target ore
  • Resistance increases with heat, needs less current at higher temperatures
  • Dense, but not as bad as other metals
  • Has high tensile strength above 1650 degrees C

Calculations and Research:

https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/0B363Ig... All engineering work & pitch here

Resources Used
Made inSydney Australia
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How they did it