Author Topic: NASA updates status and timetable of ambitious Asteroid Redirect Mission  (Read 13493 times)

Offline Chris Bergin

Great status update for the asteroid missions (ARM and "EM-2") by Chris Gebhardt.

Via NAC documentation and audio of the meetings recorded by Philip Sloss.
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2016/08/nasa-updates-ambitious-asteroid-redirect-mission/

Offline cro-magnon gramps

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Is this not putting Congressional Feet to The Fire; brave move Gerst...  ;) two thumbs up:

Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, added to Mr. Ticker’s answer, noting that the ARCM portion of ARM needed to happen in the 2026 time frame to maintain the agency’s current goals regarding Orion and timetables for human missions to Mars in the 2030s.

Mr. Gerstenmaier further stated that “We had trouble getting the funding together for this thing.  So this slip of the one year that you see wasn’t caused by technical.  It was really caused by budget availability.  We just didn’t have the budget available to go do this.”
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Online redliox

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Mr. Gerstenmaier further stated that “We had trouble getting the funding together for this thing.  So this slip of the one year that you see wasn’t caused by technical.  It was really caused by budget availability.  We just didn’t have the budget available to go do this.”

Considering the unpopularity of it I'm not surprised.  If they truly want to prove it's an asset for Mars, they need to change the targets to Phobos or Deimos.  If the ultimate point is to prove SEP can deliver (or return) things from Mars, send it to Mars orbit and then return it to Orion in Lunar orbit.  People, congressional, scientific, and public, would finally click and say "Ah I see now..."

Of course this is just me rambling, but we'll see in another year or two.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Mr. Gerstenmaier further stated that “We had trouble getting the funding together for this thing.  So this slip of the one year that you see wasn’t caused by technical.  It was really caused by budget availability.  We just didn’t have the budget available to go do this.”

Considering the unpopularity of it I'm not surprised.  If they truly want to prove it's an asset for Mars, they need to change the targets to Phobos or Deimos.  If the ultimate point is to prove SEP can deliver (or return) things from Mars, send it to Mars orbit and then return it to Orion in Lunar orbit.  People, congressional, scientific, and public, would finally click and say "Ah I see now..."

Of course this is just me rambling, but we'll see in another year or two.
There are MULTIPLE purposes to ARM, and many of them are very good on their own merit. For instance, changing the targets to Phobos or Deimos would not allow measurable testing of the enhanced gravity tractor technique.

On a slight side note: ARM is one of the only big HSF-related projects that NASA is doing that doesn't become immediately irrelevant if SpaceX is fully successful with MCT. If ARM is just an SEP demo for a Mars Transfer Hab, for instance, it would become irrelevant if MCT really works.

I'm not counting chickens (MCT) before they hatch, but NASA should be prepared for the possibility that significantly superior and cheaper approaches to Mars transport are developed. As it is now, if MCT is successful, Orion, LAS, and SLS are kind of pointless, and the point of the new push for space habs (as a prototype for Mars Transfer Vehicle) is significantly diminished (although still somewhat useful). ARM would remain very useful.

ARM is a capability that any space-faring civilization ought to have (especially NASA, since at least to some extent planetary defense is part of their job), and we shouldn't cancel it because of the idiocy and/or shortsightedness of Congress.

It also has the side effect of encouraging/accelerating asteroid mining.
« Last Edit: 08/02/2016 01:08 AM by Robotbeat »
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Online Jimmy Murdok

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It also has the side effect of encouraging/accelerating asteroid mining.
IMHO this is the most interesting part of it. Mining the Moon is too deep in the gravity well for private companies while heavy boulders in it's vicinity is a realistic target. Later on, the Gateway would make a lot of sense providing direct access to rocks and reusable landers for surface expeditions. If not to be cancelled, this is a sustainable architecture somewhere for Orion & SLS, not Mars.
I just miss money for a low cost mid size commercial lander, one step at a time.

Offline Coastal Ron

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It also has the side effect of encouraging/accelerating asteroid mining.

While I think helping our private section figure out how to increase our GDP by exploiting resources off Earth is a good idea, it's not currently an acknowledged government initiative.  Instead, NASA states about the ARM:

"This Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is part of NASA’s plan to advance the new technologies and spaceflight experience needed for a human mission to the Martian system in the 2030s."

This is not NASA's fault.  NASA has a limited ability to choose what it wants to do.  Let's hope the next President and Congress can reassess NASA's priorities and make one of them the support of private space mining efforts.  And if that is made a goal, then hopefully we can, you know, get the private sector space mining companies involved in some way.

In the meantime we have this politically weak asteroid redirect effort that relies on a transportation system that itself has a questionable future.  I think we'll have to wait until after the election to truly get an idea if it's got a future or not...
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Offline KelvinZero

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In the meantime we have this politically weak asteroid redirect effort that relies on a transportation system that itself has a questionable future.  I think we'll have to wait until after the election to truly get an idea if it's got a future or not...
I think the reason it is politically weak is that the politicians look at it and see that it barely does rely on SLS.. and they get suspicious.. :)

Personally I think it is awesome. The asteroid capture part is so cheap it fits in the pocket change of a moon or mars mission, and pretty much everything in it is a subset of the basics you should do anyway.

As boondoggles go, it would be an awesome boondoggle to get trapped in. The politicans would finally be trapped into doing the things they should have been doing all along. Add a DSH, and just keep sending out that tug for more samples and we would be practicing everything we need to colonise the asteroid belt, in a far cheaper, safer and more effective way than visiting just one sample of an asteroid.

The shuttle was an awful boondoggle to get trapped into because it forced us to develop everything around the shuttle, basically trying to think of ways to use all its capabilities on every single mission, crew, cargo and a garage, exactly wrong for assembling a base around the moon or phobos that has to be checked out before we dare send people, and in the most expensive way possible.

The ISS actually has trapped politicians into supporting a little bit of tech development, but the focus on highly sensitive microgravity research hamstrings it for ironically more down to earth BEO tech development. If we think of ISS not as the thing in orbit but the much larger organisation of companies on the ground including academics wanting something to publish, and spacex wanting a destination and some cash, it is not the worst boondoggle we could have.

Flags and footprints? Very inspiring in a throw up in the back of your mouth kind of way.. and orders of magnitude more expensive for very little tech development.

Offline jgoldader

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Did the budget for this get reinstated?  Last I read here, it was explicitly removed from the markup in the House's budget, wasn't it?
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Offline jgoldader

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More recent info is available here

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39540.msg1546500#msg1546500

As of June 2016, the House bill that funds NASA, among other agencies, specifically stated that no money was being appropriated for ARRM.  The bill has not yet been passed.  I don't know how far along the Senate is.

(Mods: I'm just making the point about the budget, not arguing in favor of, or against, it.)
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Offline Robotbeat

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It also has the side effect of encouraging/accelerating asteroid mining.

While I think helping our private section figure out how to increase our GDP by exploiting resources off Earth is a good idea, it's not currently an acknowledged government initiative.
False.
Quote
Instead, NASA states about the ARM...
Um, I said it was a side effect. Just because a single statement about ARM doesn't talk about it doesn't mean it's not there. That's the whole problem: people take the existence of one goal as evidence that others don't exist. That's dumb.

Here's my evidence:
https://deepspaceindustries.com/nasa-plans-to-work-with-private-companies-to-retrieve-asteroid-material/

and:
http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-selects-studies-for-the-asteroid-redirect-mission
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Planetary Resources Development Corp. in Redmond, Washington: The “Arkyd Spacecraft Collaboration with NASA’s Asteroid Initiative” study will determine how three classes of small, low-cost spacecraft being developed by Planetary Resources could be modified to enhance NASA’s planned asteroid missions.
Quote
Deep Space Industries in Houston-: “Secondary Spacecraft in Support of ARM,” which will assess three spacecraft types being developed by DSI for compatibility with the ARV or launch on SLS, and examine public-private partnership approaches.

And, of course, the asteroid would be left in orbit and so could be used as an early demonstration asteroid for asteroid mining companies. This would be greatly advantageous due to allowing multiple attempts to occur quickly. Instead of taking years to get to a target just to find out the technique didn't work, once the asteroid is in orbit, ideas can be tested within days or weeks of launch, allowing much faster iteration to a workable asteroid mining technique. And it is possible to refuel and reuse the ARM spacecraft after its primary mission to actually bring more and larger rocks back for more intense ISRU.
« Last Edit: 08/02/2016 02:04 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Robotbeat

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http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/IAC-14-D3-Mazanek.pdf
ASTEROID REDIRECT MISSION CONCEPT:
A BOLD APPROACH FOR UTILIZING SPACE RESOURCES
Quote
The paradigm shift enabled by the ARM concept would allow in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) to be used at the human mission departure location (i.e., cislunar space) versus exclusively at the deep-space mission destination. This approach drastically reduces the barriers associated with utilizing ISRU for human deep-space missions. The successful testing of ISRU techniques and associated equipment could enable large-scale commercial ISRU operations to become a reality and enable a future space-based economy utilizing processed asteroidal materials.

(By the way, this paper is from 2014, as ARM was being really formulated.)
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Offline Robotbeat

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From the original 2012 Keck study which started this whole thing:
http://www.nss.org/settlement/asteroids/Asteroid_Retrieval_Feasibility_Study_2012.pdf
Quote
These activities could jump-start an entire in situ resource utilization (ISRU) industry.
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Several activities could take place after the NEA is placed in cislunar orbit to benefit human exploration, the development of ISRU, and science.
Quote
• Testing of large-scale sample acquisition using various collection approaches, leading to subsequent mining activities.

And especially this page:
Quote
Mining/Benefaction/Extraction/Fabrication – The technical requirements for mining asteroids would be as diverse as those used on Earth. Plausible asteroidal feedstocks cover a vast range of chemical compositions and physical properties, suggesting a careful tailoring of drilling, blasting, cutting, and crushing hardware to the chosen target—and placing a premium upon prior knowledge of the nature of the target material. Indeed, one of the central reasons for choosing a water-bearing C-type asteroid as our first target is that the chemical and physical properties of these materials are both rather well understood and benign (very low crushing strength and high content of desirable volatiles). Benchscale prototypes of systems for processing asteroidal materials have been developed in laboratories on Earth, in some cases using real meteorite materials as the feedstock.
Further development of equipment for effecting mineral separation on asteroids, a process that would become more important in potential future missions to volatile-poor metal-bearing asteroids, could await both experience with the first retrieved asteroid and laboratory investigations on meteorite samples. Beneficiation (the selective enrichment of desired minerals) may in many cases require crushing of the target rock, followed by magnetic, electrostatic, or other means of concentration. Such concentration technologies would also be of considerable value on the Moon for the concentration of potential ores such as ilmenite.
The extraction of a desired material (water, carbon, nitrogen, iron, nickel, sulfur, platinum-group metals, etc.) may involve either chemical or physical processes. Examples include thermal decomposition of clay minerals and hydrated salts to release water vapor, Mond-process volatilization and separation of metallic iron and nickel, electrolysis of molten silicates, or any of dozens of other candidate techniques which would be chosen for their relevance to the intended target and the desired product.
Fabrication of products would likewise involve a host of different possible processes. Production of high-purity water for propulsion or life-support use may require controlled distillation of the first-cut water driven off by heating the asteroid material to separate the water from undesirable contaminants such as volatile organics and sulfur and chlorine compounds. Likewise, production of high-purity iron (99.9999% iron has the corrosion resistance of stainless steel and a very high tensile strength) could be effected by Mond-process volatilization of native metal alloys, simple distillation to separate iron and nickel carbonyls, and controlled thermal decomposition of the iron pentacarbonyl vapor in a heated mold (at about 200 Celsius and 1 atm pressure). Fabrication of refractory bricks or aerobrakes could be done by microwave sintering of appropriate metal-oxide mixtures in molds. These candidate fabrication processes could be developed sequentially as our experience with in-space processing grows, and as new classes of asteroidal feedstock become available.
« Last Edit: 08/02/2016 02:22 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Um, I said it was a side effect. Just because a single statement about ARM doesn't talk about it doesn't mean it's not there. That's the whole problem: people take the existence of one goal as evidence that others don't exist. That's dumb.

I understand your point of view, but by nature secondary goals are not going to be as visible as primary goals.  And unfortunately the ARM's primary mission to support a human mission to Mars is not that convincing, so that drags down the perception of value for the whole effort.

And as I stated I would like a public-private effort to work on extracting resources from space.  But as long as the primary goal is focused on Mars, and this effort is tied to using the hideously expensive SLS/Orion transportation system, it's not going to have a strong chance to succeed.

My $0.02
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Offline Robotbeat

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Um, I said it was a side effect. Just because a single statement about ARM doesn't talk about it doesn't mean it's not there. That's the whole problem: people take the existence of one goal as evidence that others don't exist. That's dumb.

I understand your point of view, but by nature secondary goals are not going to be as visible as primary goals.  ...
Yeah, and?

That's the whole problem. This stupid assumption that there can only be one worthwhile goal for something. ARM breaks that mold firmly.

And I think that ARM would benefit tremendously if the case for it were more publicly and firmly made:

1) Enhanced gravity tractor technique.
2) Asteroid mining (aka ISRU) in 3 ways:
  a) piggy back microsats by commercial ventures who want to contribute data to the mission
  b) bringing a big rock to cislunar space where asteroid mining techniques can be directly tested in a representative space environment but with low latency and easy opportunities (fast turnaround) to enable quick iterations and improvements
  c) the actual spacecraft being reused to capture more rocks for ISRU/mining after main mission is done
3) SEP demo
4) Scientific sampling (including characterizing asteroids for hazard analysis)
5) Ability to test other asteroid defense technique, such as direct thrusting, while accomplishing the above goals and providing a proven platform that could enable other techniques such as "enhanced kinetic impact" (which could in principle defend against even comets).

Just like the Mars colonization thing, I think NASA's voice and articulation is muffled by a desire not to whip up controversy and just an overall risk averseness and desire for consensus. But these are things which ARM was really intended for, and we ought to be vocal about them.

Fundamentally, ARM (especially Option B) is a capability that every space-faring species should possess. And we shouldn't short-change it by trying to pidgeon-hole the concept into fitting just as a small, incremental cog in the Mars Campaign (which may soon become obsolete anyway).
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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{snip}
Fundamentally, ARM (especially Option B) is a capability that every space-faring species should possess. And we shouldn't short-change it by trying to pidgeon-hole the concept into fitting just as a small, incremental cog in the Mars Campaign (which may soon become obsolete anyway).

The M in ARM stands for mission not Mars.

The Mars mission may buy a second SEP tug cheap (or the same one second hand).

This is an asteroid mission.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Just like the Mars colonization thing, I think NASA's voice and articulation is muffled by a desire not to whip up controversy and just an overall risk averseness and desire for consensus.

NASA is one of many government agencies and departments, so NASA is not unusual in this regard.  And every department and agency works for the President and is funded by Congress, so it's not like they have control over their own destiny.  If you want that you have to be in the private sector (ala Musk and his focus on Mars, or the space mining companies).

Quote
But these are things which ARM was really intended for, and we ought to be vocal about them.

And you're doing a good job highlighting the secondary objectives, for me at least.  Because I have been aware of the primary goal, and about some of the technologies, but the conversation about it really is dominated by whether it's primary mission is worthwhile or not.  And unfortunately the perception is that it's primary mission is not that exciting.

Quote
Fundamentally, ARM (especially Option B) is a capability that every space-faring species should possess. And we shouldn't short-change it by trying to pidgeon-hole the concept into fitting just as a small, incremental cog in the Mars Campaign (which may soon become obsolete anyway).

I agree that we have basic technologies and techniques that we should be focusing on before putting a major focus on before our government goes to Mars.  However, Congress is not interested in doing that.

So you're kind of like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill, only to see it rolling back down.  Instead of continuing to repeat this over and over again, we either need to change the boulder or change the hill (metaphorically speaking).

In other words, let's hope whoever is President next decides to actually listen to suggestions for focusing on the types of technologies and techniques that you and I want to see developed.  Then we have to hope they can get Congress to go along.  Which means our goal should be to somehow get the attention of the next President as soon after the election as possible, or before if we know who their space experts are.

Let's stop being Sisyphus...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Robotbeat

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Again, "primary objective" here is what?

ARM cannot be separated from the other objectives. To do so is to kill the concept with ignorance.
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Offline Lar

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Robotbeat you sold me on this mission so well that I'm almost ready to go start a kickstarter. wouldn't it be swell if someone else did this?
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
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Offline GWH


And I think that ARM would benefit tremendously if the case for it were more publicly and firmly made:

1) Enhanced gravity tractor technique.
2) Asteroid mining (aka ISRU) in 3 ways:
  a) piggy back microsats by commercial ventures who want to contribute data to the mission
  b) bringing a big rock to cislunar space where asteroid mining techniques can be directly tested in a representative space environment but with low latency and easy opportunities (fast turnaround) to enable quick iterations and improvements
  c) the actual spacecraft being reused to capture more rocks for ISRU/mining after main mission is done
3) SEP demo
4) Scientific sampling (including characterizing asteroids for hazard analysis)

This is all great, but to truly enable these in a larger vision why stop there?  Why not use the deep space habitats already being developed to dock the sample to and create some synergy within the goals of developing various Journey to Mars tech?  Why invest so much in development costs only to go after a single sample rather than spreading out risk over multiple mission/targets?  How much more could be possible if these samples were placed in a destination where the possibility of regular commercial resupply missions to a manned science lab and all the localized infrastructure could exist?

Rhetorical questions, but just seems like the potential to do more is there and it's the tentative manner in which this mission is planned that is detrimental to it's support.

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