Author Topic: Deep Space "mine"?  (Read 29109 times)

Offline simonbp

Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #60 on: 01/23/2013 04:15 PM »
Since nobody's posted their sales video yet, let me do the honors  :P



I still think they need a Deathstar construction video, to attract some military funding  ;)

Based on that video, it looks like they are more shooting for Babylon 5...

Offline simonbp

Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #61 on: 01/23/2013 04:18 PM »
Has anyone operated a nanosat even at a distance comparable to the Moon's orbit?

Depends on what you mean:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_4

Just 6.1 kg, so technically a nanosat (<10 kg)...

« Last Edit: 01/23/2013 04:20 PM by simonbp »

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #62 on: 01/23/2013 04:48 PM »
Not that these asteroids are necessarily good targets for mining, but this chart on RIA Novosti shows some of the ones that come near earth:

http://en.rian.ru/infographics/20130123/178864306/Asteroids-That-Buzz-Planet-Earth.html

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #63 on: 01/23/2013 05:03 PM »
Has anyone operated a nanosat even at a distance comparable to the Moon's orbit?

Depends on what you mean:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_4

Just 6.1 kg, so technically a nanosat (<10 kg)...


Nice! That's pretty cool.

But any using the cubesat platform?

How many have flown with electric propulsion (not counting warm-gas thrusters below, say, 500s Isp) on the cubesat platform?

I see a lot of proposals for deep space cubesats (such as this awesome one: http://icubesat.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/icubesat-org-2012-c-2-3-_presentation_hruby_201205291229.pdf ), but it seems hard to find up to date information on the efforts.
« Last Edit: 01/23/2013 05:07 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #64 on: 01/23/2013 05:04 PM »
To me, microgravity means something different from zero gravity.  Therefore their foundry sounds like it can only work if it spins, or else if it is attached to a certain minimum sized asteroid, which would be along the lines of their illustration.  The foundry is set up to refine nickle only.

True zero gravity (meaning zero gravitational effects) cannot be found in the solar system, there are always tidal forces present.  "Microgravity" is a standard term used to denote gravitational effects that are so low that the object is effectively in zero gee -- if you look at the object, it appears to be floating.

Which is an acceptable nit.  How does this tighter definition of "microgravity" prove or disprove the operating principles of their microgravity foundry which apparently only works on nickle?
« Last Edit: 01/23/2013 05:05 PM by JohnFornaro »
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Mongo62

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #65 on: 01/23/2013 06:16 PM »
To me, microgravity means something different from zero gravity.  Therefore their foundry sounds like it can only work if it spins, or else if it is attached to a certain minimum sized asteroid, which would be along the lines of their illustration.  The foundry is set up to refine nickle only.

True zero gravity (meaning zero gravitational effects) cannot be found in the solar system, there are always tidal forces present.  "Microgravity" is a standard term used to denote gravitational effects that are so low that the object is effectively in zero gee -- if you look at the object, it appears to be floating.

Which is an acceptable nit.  How does this tighter definition of "microgravity" prove or disprove the operating principles of their microgravity foundry which apparently only works on nickle?

I wish I had more information on this "Microgravity Foundry", all I can find is little more than a rehash of the information given in the press conference.  I would expect that if the technology is "patent pending" then the patent application (with a lot of specific information) should be available online, unless the date of filing the application was so recent (within the last 18 months IIRC) that the application has not yet been published. And in fact David Gump has stated that the patent application was filed less than 18 months ago and hence is not available on publicly available databases.

The (speculated) process of reacting Ni with CO to form nickel carbonyl gas, which is thermally decomposed back into metallic nickel by laser beam, and deposited onto a solid mass in whatever shape the laser beams trace, and recovering the CO for reuse, seems reasonable to me.  There would be toxicity issues on Earth, but in deep space?  Not a big problem.

« Last Edit: 01/23/2013 06:25 PM by Mongo62 »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #66 on: 01/23/2013 06:36 PM »
Some questions:

-they said that their initial market would be refueling comsats. What fuel do comsats use? Can this fuel be manufactured from an asteroid?

-how are they going to handle deep space communications and tracking? Can this be done with conventional commercial equipment, or will they require something custom built? Will they require the DSN?

-has a commercial secondary payload ever been launched from a comsat?

-how long does it take to secure a ride as a secondary payload on a rocket? Considering that they are talking about launching in 2015, when is the latest that they need to start negotiations for such a ride?

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #67 on: 01/23/2013 07:02 PM »
Some questions:

-they said that their initial market would be refueling comsats. What fuel do comsats use? Can this fuel be manufactured from an asteroid?
They use hydrazine (and nitrogen tetroxide or a similar nitrogen-oxygen compound). Also, increasingly they are using Xenon, which is very hard to find on an asteroid! To be honest, the market for satellite refueling is pretty small and getting smaller as more satellites transition to high-Isp electric propulsion.

Quote
-how are they going to handle deep space communications and tracking? Can this be done with conventional commercial equipment, or will they require something custom built? Will they require the DSN?
Good question. The most interesting part of their near-term is how they'll solve this sort of problem. IF they solve it, of course.

Quote
-has a commercial secondary payload ever been launched from a comsat?

-how long does it take to secure a ride as a secondary payload on a rocket? Considering that they are talking about launching in 2015, when is the latest that they need to start negotiations for such a ride?
Good questions as well. Here are some answers:
http://spaceflightservices.com/services/deployed-payloads/
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #68 on: 01/23/2013 08:28 PM »
Good questions as well. Here are some answers:
http://spaceflightservices.com/services/deployed-payloads/

The answer for GTO seems to be that it is possible, but I don't see any indication that it has been done. There is one opportunity available for 2015. Could possibly be more. However, just because a space is available doesn't necessarily mean that you have enough time to buy it. Contracts take a long time, and presumably the provider wants to know what your design looks like before they will close the deal (don't want anything dangerous to the primary, for instance).

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #69 on: 01/23/2013 08:38 PM »
Good questions as well. Here are some answers:
http://spaceflightservices.com/services/deployed-payloads/

The answer for GTO seems to be that it is possible, but I don't see any indication that it has been done. There is one opportunity available for 2015. Could possibly be more. However, just because a space is available doesn't necessarily mean that you have enough time to buy it. Contracts take a long time, and presumably the provider wants to know what your design looks like before they will close the deal (don't want anything dangerous to the primary, for instance).
There's an opportunity for a launch to nearly escape velocity in 2014: http://spaceflightservices.com/manifest-schedule/

(And, by the way, I meant to point out this: "The use of standard interfaces and containerized dispensers reduces launch procurement and integration time to a matter of months." from here: http://spaceflightservices.com/services/deployed-payloads/ )


But I agree that no one has ever done it. The actual TRL for the kind of ion thruster tech they'd need for such a mission is around TRL 4 or so. It has been demonstrated in the lab, but hasn't flown. If they fly by 2015, it will be nearly a miracle.

But cubesat components are actually pretty cheap:
http://www.cubesatshop.com/
http://www.clyde-space.com/cubesat_shop/propulsion/303_cubesat-pulse-plasma-thruster

But there aren't off-the-shelf electric thrusters sized for cubesats with enough Isp (should be >1000s) and enough mass fraction to do an interplanetary mission.

Also, cubesats often rely on magneto-torquers for attitude control. This wouldn't be realistic outside of LEO.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Deep Space "mine" ??
« Reply #70 on: 01/23/2013 08:42 PM »
But this one seems to have gotten a bit of notice anyway and has some names (not like Peter D, mind but SOME names) some people recognize. And, like kkattula, I'm wondering what they have in mind. I guess we'll find out tomorrow.



More importantly this team includes some with experience in the resource sector and some knowledge of geology.
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline Mongo62

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #71 on: 01/23/2013 09:07 PM »
Slightly OT question: when do you think that off-Earth mining exceeds Earth-based mining in a) value added and b) ore mass processed?  It will be starting from nothing, but there is exponential growth to consider.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #72 on: 01/23/2013 09:44 PM »
Slightly OT question: when do you think that off-Earth mining exceeds Earth-based mining in a) value added and b) ore mass processed?  It will be starting from nothing, but there is exponential growth to consider.
A) Not in this century. b) Not even this millennium. Remember, we mine almost two cubic /miles/ of just coal every year. What about aggregate? (I think it's 2 more cubic miles, just about).

You're essentially asking about when the population in space may exceed that of the Earth. That may take a VERY long time. This isn't just slightly off-topic, it's speculative fiction.
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #73 on: 01/24/2013 12:08 AM »

(And, by the way, I meant to point out this: "The use of standard interfaces and containerized dispensers reduces launch procurement and integration time to a matter of months."

SNIP

But cubesat components are actually pretty cheap:


By the way, I conversed with somebody who has asked the contracting question to a bunch of cubesat makers/wannabes. He said that the minimum time for signing a contract seems to be 18 months out, but that it is more like two years. So a question to ask of DSI is "Have you signed a contract for a launch in 2015 yet?"

As for the components being cheap, that's for standardized components. But for much of what they're talking about there is no standardized component. There's no standardized sample retrieval arm, or sample return container, for example. And I suspect that they know nothing about close proximity ops. They didn't announce that any members of their team had served on Hyabusa or NEAR.

But because they have given actual dates that are not far off, it is possible to hold them to them. We could come back in December 2015 and see if they have or have not delivered the promise that they made yesterday.

Offline simonbp

Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #74 on: 01/24/2013 12:46 AM »
They didn't announce that any members of their team had served on Hyabusa or NEAR.

IIRC, the prox ops for both missions were rather ad-hoc, so that lack of experience might not be that meaningful.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #75 on: 01/24/2013 01:11 AM »

(And, by the way, I meant to point out this: "The use of standard interfaces and containerized dispensers reduces launch procurement and integration time to a matter of months."

SNIP

But cubesat components are actually pretty cheap:


By the way, I conversed with somebody who has asked the contracting question to a bunch of cubesat makers/wannabes. He said that the minimum time for signing a contract seems to be 18 months out, but that it is more like two years. So a question to ask of DSI is "Have you signed a contract for a launch in 2015 yet?"

As for the components being cheap, that's for standardized components. But for much of what they're talking about there is no standardized component. There's no standardized sample retrieval arm, or sample return container, for example. And I suspect that they know nothing about close proximity ops. They didn't announce that any members of their team had served on Hyabusa or NEAR.

But because they have given actual dates that are not far off, it is possible to hold them to them. We could come back in December 2015 and see if they have or have not delivered the promise that they made yesterday.
Sample return seems very unlikely anywhere close to the 2016 launch timeframe. And you're of course right about the custom components. It is possible they have some plan for operating a cubesat platform far from Earth, but that sort of thing takes time.

And actually, do you know of any teams who are sending a cubesat beyond GSO? Or who are using >1000s ISP propulsion on a cubesat that is set to fly?

Those would be useful goals in and of themselves, and their demonstration (if it isn't too elaborate) would be quite useful for the community at large.
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Offline sanman

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #76 on: 01/24/2013 02:17 AM »
Beyond just Isp, what kind of propellant mass do you need to go beyond GSO?

According to this article, the ESA's SMART-1 probe used 80kg of propellant for a total 367kg of mass:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart-1

So wouldn't this type of undertaking inherently go beyond what a cubesat is in terms of mass? Or are Cubesat mass limits allowed to discount propellant mass?

UPDATE:

Well, I guess I found this:

http://www.lunar-cubes.com/
« Last Edit: 01/24/2013 02:24 AM by sanman »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #77 on: 01/24/2013 02:37 AM »
They didn't announce that any members of their team had served on Hyabusa or NEAR.

IIRC, the prox ops for both missions were rather ad-hoc, so that lack of experience might not be that meaningful.

There are people who have done this before. You'd think that a company would want to hire people with experience.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #78 on: 01/24/2013 02:48 AM »
And actually, do you know of any teams who are sending a cubesat beyond GSO? Or who are using >1000s ISP propulsion on a cubesat that is set to fly?

Those would be useful goals in and of themselves, and their demonstration (if it isn't too elaborate) would be quite useful for the community at large.

I don't. There has been some talk about carrying a cubesat(s) on larger missions such as a Jupiter mission. But I think it's very idle talk, with no engineering analysis behind it. Cubesats are so small that you cannot do much with them. They don't have room or power for instruments or other equipment. I hang out with planetary scientists and I'd love to hear what they think about all this. I think that what DSI is talking about is very far from the current state of play and nobody seems to have caught onto that. For instance, they're talking about doing missions for something like 2% - 5% of the cost of NASA planetary missions (OSIRIS-REx is a billion dollar asteroid sample return mission). What makes that possible?

It's worth noting that cubesats are hot right now. 3D printing is hot right now. And the claims made for both technologies are way over-hyped. And this looks like a company that is chanting magic words that are somehow supposed to make this all come true. But almost none of this has been done before and to date it has taken skilled engineering teams and major bucks to do even basic things. One of the Hyabusa-1 project scientists walked me through that mission. They bumped into the asteroid by mistake at least once, nearly flew out of control a couple of times, and came very close to losing that mission (no redundancy) multiple times. That was a very inexpensive mission and it almost failed numerous times. I don't know how somebody can think they can do it way cheaper and also more complex and pull it off.
« Last Edit: 01/24/2013 02:49 AM by Blackstar »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Deep Space "mine"?
« Reply #79 on: 01/24/2013 03:45 AM »
Oh, I agree it's kind of a fad, but there are several options for high-performance propulsion in a cubesat platform. A few different ion thrusters have been tested in labs, but none flown (well, I believe some low-Isp teflon-based electric thrusters have flown and they may be considered ion thrusters, but they only carry a very tiny amount of propellant and have only a 590s Isp). Cubesats would be a good platform for testing this stuff pretty cheaply.

But really, a lot of it is just mastering some basics, like deep space attitude control and long-distance operations. Clever engineering can fit lots of experiments in a cubesat platform. You could put a camera, an IR spectrograph, a radiation monitor, a magnetometer, a chip-scale atomic clock (for providing a stable frequency source for probing the gravity of a body using doppler-shift of the cubesat's radiowave carrier frequency) and some plasma physics instruments on board a multi-U cubesat. That's not going to be nearly the fidelity as a NASA probe, but a data point is a data point, and a lot of those things can be had for remarkably low prices.
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