Asteroid Prospector

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Conditions in space such as microgravity and no extreme wind conditions allow the construction of a big umbrella with a parabolic profile shape to focus sun rays in a small area to achieve high temperatures in order to analyze and process materials on space.

An umbrella shape has the advantage that can be folded on a narrow cylindrical shape to fit in a rocket . Also, this approach helps to reduce the need to lift a source of energy for a similar process using other techniques. There can be two basic modes of operation; Direct action on surface or Batch processing unit. The umbrella may be anchored to an m-type asteroid and have the capacity to focus different areas in the surface of the asteroid to agglutinate and/or melt material in sizes that can be batch processed ahead.

Part of the control can be made operating in the edge between shadow generated from the asteroid and sunlight also the structure may modify its shape to control the temperature. Sensors can determine the composition of the material being processed and/or melted and assess their value. Once a batch of material is classified based on its compositional elements and properties (magnetic, density, conductivity) further processing can be made or can be used as a basic building block or bulk element.

To work as a processing unit the umbrella will have a “hole” to move materials in or out of the focal point heating area through a tunnel covered with the same reflective material,. The structure also is covered with reflective material in the areas prone to be heated and have a narrow profile to minimize exposure to heat. This can be the initial point for asteroid mining, but at the same time can be a link on a production chain to obtain more than ingots of bulk materials. Non-existing on earth alloys can be shipped for further analysis.

For this operation, conditions on space can be an advantage a disadvantage, properties like density can be useful for separation in a centrifuges or magnetism but other materials may need a more elaborate or complex system for a further stage of on space industrialization.

At an initial stage the shape and purposes of the constructed elements should be based on the composition of the available materials, once information is obtained from site and analyzed on earth.

Some of these concepts may be used to experiment at a different scale on the ISS.


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  • Name:
    Hector Vega Rodriguez
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