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A Techno-Economic Analysis of Asteroid Mining

Status Report From: arXiv.org e-Print archive
Posted: Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Andreas M. Hein, Robert Matheson, Dan Fries

(Submitted on 9 Oct 2018)

Asteroid mining has been proposed as an approach to complement Earth-based supplies of rare earth metals and supplying resources in space, such as water. However, existing studies on the economic viability of asteroid mining have remained rather simplistic and do not provide much guidance on which technological improvements would be needed for increasing its economic viability. This paper develops a techno-economic analysis of asteroid mining with the objective of providing recommendations for future technology development and performance improvements. Both, in-space resource provision such as water and return of platinum to Earth are considered. Starting from first principles of techno-economic analysis, gradually additional economic and technological factors are added to the analysis model. Applied to mining missions involving spacecraft reuse, learning curve effect, and multiple spacecraft, their economic viability is assessed. A sensitivity analysis with respect to throughput rate, spacecraft mass, and resource price is performed. Furthermore, a sample asteroid volatile mining architecture based on small CubeSat-class spacecraft is presented. It is concluded that key technological drivers for asteroid mining missions are throughput rate, number of spacecraft per mission, and the rate in which successive missions are conducted.

Subjects: Space Physics (physics.space-ph); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

Cite as: arXiv:1810.03836 [physics.space-ph](or arXiv:1810.03836v1 [physics.space-ph] for this version)

Submission history

From: Andreas Hein M.  

[v1] Tue, 9 Oct 2018 07:17:55 GMT (415kb)

https://arxiv.org/abs/1810.03836


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