Status Report

Asteroid mining with small spacecraft and its economic feasibility

By SpaceRef Editor
August 15, 2018
Filed under , ,

Pablo Calla, Dan Fries, Chris Welch
(Submitted on 15 Aug 2018)

Asteroid mining offers the possibility to revolutionize supply and availability of many resources vital for human civilization. Analysis suggests that Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA) contain enough volatile and high value minerals to make the mining process economically feasible. Considering possible applications, specifically the mining of water in space has become a major focus for near-term options. Most proposed projects for asteroid mining, however, involve spacecraft based on traditional designs resulting in large, monolithic and expensive systems.

An alternative approach is presented in this paper, basing the asteroid mining process on multiple small spacecraft, i.e. a decentralized architecture. To the best knowledge of the authors, limited thorough analysis of the asteroid mining capability of small spacecraft has been conducted. This paper explores the lower limit of spacecraft size for asteroid mining operations. After defining a feasible miniaturized spacecraft design, capable of extracting water from asteroids and transporting it to an appropriate orbit, a high-level economic analysis is performed. This analysis reveals several key constraints in making near-term asteroid mining financially sustainable under the assumptions given in this study.

Comments:    19 pages, 8 figures
Subjects:    Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)
Cite as:    arXiv:1808.05099 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:1808.05099v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Submission history
From: Dan Fries
[v1] Wed, 15 Aug 2018 14:30:58 GMT (2884kb,D)

SpaceRef staff editor.