Asteroids and comets are some of the most accessible sources of space based raw materials and elements, rich with minerals, ores and even water, that can be exploited in-situ toward space architectures and systems development or for delivery to locations including moon, Mars and also the Earth. As proof of concept for a needed critical technology, capable of rendezvous, capture, and deflection of an asteroid of 30-50 m diameter, the design, construction, and placement of an early asteroid retrieval and deflection system, as a functional purpose built vehicle to be assembled and deployed from the ISS or a future Orbital Operations Platform gives immediate opportunity. The multi- phased program for construction of the retriever includes component based design and manufacture, payload delivery, and in space assembly process.
The retriever model may eventually include advanced s power sources and systems such as solar and hydrogen cell PV, nuclear and electric plasma engines, mounted on the modular vehicle platform enabling mission expansions and support mission requirements. An additional potential is posed by a chemical propulsion technique which will provide an asteroid based LOX generation for fuel supply and return. The of vehicular design, construction and propulsion profiles are also applicable to usages such as large item space debris capture, retrieval and containment, including for delivery to an ISS based re-cycling platform. Such retrievers are simple vehicle types constructed from single item beams and rings that provide interlocking, interchangeable and fully adjustable configurations. Within the same architectures several asteroid retrieval and deflection configurations are possible within consideration of uncertain mission aspects, including asteroid dimensions, the required operations for its capture, orbit and distance of the retriever from asteroid, the angle of retriever impact, asteroid mass and composition as well as its center of gravity location, only to name a few. This highly expedient and adjustable retriever system includes the placement of dual space vehicle thrust and vectoring engines, thereby providing both power for its transportation and the needed isolate and incremental thrust capacity capture and deflection of the asteroid. For a proof of concept and small scale demonstration of the asteroid retrieval and deflection system, this expedient design consists of a modular and open framework circular exo-structure formed by connecting truss elements with circular ring connectors.
These components will be shipped to space where the construction of the octagonal canister shape structure or basket, with approximately 60 m diameter. Once the body is assembled the two propulsion engines and associated fuel tanks, will be installed in opposite sides of the exo-structure, on the outer edge of the large diameter rings. Once assembled and as all systems, including propulsion, space and ground based communication systems, have been tested, the retriever will travel from the space based assembly site to the rendezvous with a small 30-50 meter asteroid body. In proximity of the asteroid, the retriever will maneuver into alignment and docking position, deploying appropriate securing mechanisms, such as tethers and anchors, and will initiate the capture process through propulsion adjustment.