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#1 2004-07-04 18:56:08

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
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Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

Many people have asked how private industry could get profit from developing space. Tourism has been proposed, but profitability of that industry is debatable. Asteroid mining has long been held as a profit industry.

John Lewis claims that carbonaceous chondrite (C-type) asteroids are the best choice because they have everything needed to sustain an industrial economy. I claim you cannot harvest just one asteroid. C-type does have hydrated minerals that can be baked at 1,000°C to get water out, and may have ice in the core. Water can be made into LOX/LH2 rocket fuel. However, industrial metals are relatively scarce and in the form of oxide minerals. Those minerals would have to be smelted. However, an iron asteroid is called M-type because it's solid metal. It is composed of iron/nickel alloy and may have mineral inclusions of up to 30%. If the inclusions are more than 30% it's no longer classified as iron, instead it's called stony-iron. Iron can be more than 90%, but on average is 88% of the metal. Nickel is 5%-62% of the metal; the average is 10%. Average cobalt content is 0.5%. We know this from iron meteorites. I treat meteorites as a good sample of near Earth asteroids. Precious metals will also be present. Gold tends to bind to iron, so any iron deposit will have gold mixed with it. Platinum follows nickel. All iron meteorites have measurable quantities of gold, silver, platinum, and all of the other platinum group metals: ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, and iridium. These 8 precious metals appear to be present in relatively low amounts, but can be easily concentrated to commercially mineable quantities.

Meteorites have a lot of published data, but it's hard to get complete data. One iron meteorite, Allan Hills 84233, has 1070 parts per billion gold; iron and other precious metals are not reported. The bulk average for CI meteorites is 145ppb gold, but much more platinum. If the ratio of gold:platinum holds the same this would provide a great deal of platinum in an iron asteroid. This can be concentrated by simple means: grind the asteroid into iron filings, centrifuge it and use a magnet to collect magnetic particles. This would collect metal and discard the mineral inclusions. Then use the Mond process to extract ferrous metals. This works by pressurizing the ore in pure carbon monoxide and heating to 50°C, nickel with combine to form nickel-carbonyl gas. That gas is drawn off and heating in a second chamber to 230°C which breaks it down, precipitating nickel leaving carbon monoxide. This cycle is used commercially to produce 100% pure nickel. It also works with iron and cobalt, although they have slightly different pressures and temperatures. This produces iron, nickel, cobalt, or iron/nickel alloy with highly controlled proportion. It also leaves behind everything else from the metal. The left-overs will have highly concentrated precious metal.

Typical M-type asteroid, metal portion:
88% iron, 10% nickel, 0.5% cobalt, 1.5% everything else.
Precious metal - ppb - troy ounces per short ton of ore - concentrated ounces/ton
Gold - 1070 - 0.0312 - 2.08
Silver - 1476 - 0.0430 - 2.86
Platinum - 7379 - 0.215 - 14.3
Ruthenium - 5239 - 0.15 - 10
Rhodium - 1033 - 0.0301 - 2.0
Palladium - 4132 - 0.12 - 8.0
Osmium - 3616 - 0.105 - 7.0
Iridium - 3431 - 0.100 - 6.67

Look at the last column. Although this is the concentrated proportion of precious metals, it is easy to do and the result is so rich that ore with just one of these precious metals would be considered a rich mine. With all of these metals, this is literally a miner's dream.

Commercial harvesting these precious metals will require infrastructure that avoids support from Earth. That means using asteroid nickel to make the alloy Inconel 617 for atmospheric entry capsules to return precious metal bullion to Earth. It also means harvesting a C-type asteroid for rocket fuel. An asteroid mining operation must work a pair of asteroids: M- and C-type.

How do we make a parachute for this capsule? Do we harvest tar from the C-type asteroid, refine it into petroleum distillate, chemically react it to make nylon, spin nylon into thread, weave the tread into fabric, and sew the fabric onto parachutes? We would also have to braid thread into cord to support the parachute.

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#2 2004-07-04 20:07:55

Martian Republic
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From: Haltom City- Dallas/Fort Worth
Registered: 2004-06-13
Posts: 855

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

If you want to separate the different metals from each other. Why would you choose to use a very labor intensive process?

The best way to separate the metals would be to go to a Plasma Steel process. It is the third state of matter. At different temperatures, a different metal will roll out of that mess of metal you are working with. Instead of having several different process to separate the metal or trying to grind up an asteroid, you would be able to just cut chunk off the asteroid and let the Plasma Steel process separate it for you.

Except for the nono tubes or nylon that you would have to generate artificially like we do on Earth. But, the rest of the carbon based stuff, could be done on a cellular level of plants and animal process like it done on earth. That would be the most efficient way to generate oil, grease, rope, cloth, etc.

We would probably want a rock asteroid too. But, it would take time to create soil through a process of bio-mass and bacteria processes.

Larry,

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#3 2004-07-05 07:00:09

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
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Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

I tried searching up "Plasma Steel" on the internet, but only found references to a plasma torch used to cut steel. Could you explain how this works? I understand how a mass spectrometer works, but that is intended for low volume and works on individual atoms, not bulk plasma. It would be nice to have a large volume separator that works like a mass spectrometer; it could be used by the nuclear industry to separate radioactive material from non-radioactive and purify each isotope. Isolated isotopes could be reprocessed into something non-radioactive. I believe the reason it isn't used is that no one has developed such a thing. As for a plasma centrefuge, I doubt you would get sufficient separation to reclaim an element that starts with a concentration of just a couple hundred parts per billion.

Building soil on an asteroid? I'm not convinced the raw material is there. On an M-type asteroid it definately isn't; there isn't any carbon, not even enough to make steel. And without gravity a greenhouse would have many problems, from keeping the soil in place to plant growth problems. John Lewis claims the tar of a C-type asteroid contains nitrogen, but I haven't seen any data to support this. I haven't seen any data at all on the tar; I don't think it survives atmospheric entry so you can't find a meteorite that still has any.

What I proposed is an automated process that uses simple, proven, low energy techniques. The result is concentrated ore that is more than sufficient grade to smelt precious metals.

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#4 2004-07-05 07:51:14

RobS
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From: South Bend, IN
Registered: 2002-01-15
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Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

What I would look for is an asteroid where a C and an M have collided, maybe with a stony as well, producing a composite body. Such an asteroid would be a "snowball" of chunks of all the different kinds, allowing you to harvest different things at different spots on the surface.

And to test the technology, Mars and the moon are littered with nickel-iron; I'd pick them up with regolith-moving equipment and a magnetic separator. It may very well be that once an operation starts on the moon and on Mars, the economy of scale and the presence of infrastructure because of other economic activities (science, tourism) may make asteroid mining too risky or uneconomic. The regoliths of both bodies have enough smashed nickel-iron for millennia of exploitation.

           -- RobS

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#5 2004-07-05 08:41:23

DERF
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From: Kingston, Ontario
Registered: 2004-05-25
Posts: 39

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

About the Plasma Steel process:

Is that similiar to the hydrocarbon-refining process where a hot gaseous heterogenous mixture is slowly cooled and different molecular weights come out (condense from gas to liquid). Except I assume in this case I assume the phase change is plasma to solid. I like it, provided huge amounts of energy are not wasted. It seems a lot of energy could be recovered, and the waste heat could keep your human habitat nice and cozy-warm.

Vive les asteroides!

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#6 2004-07-05 09:53:39

Martian Republic
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From: Haltom City- Dallas/Fort Worth
Registered: 2004-06-13
Posts: 855

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

About the Plasma Steel process:

Is that similiar to the hydrocarbon-refining process where a hot gaseous heterogenous mixture is slowly cooled and different molecular weights come out (condense from gas to liquid). Except I assume in this case I assume the phase change is plasma to solid. I like it, provided huge amounts of energy are not wasted. It seems a lot of energy could be recovered, and the waste heat could keep your human habitat nice and cozy-warm.

Vive les asteroides!

Good definition of Plasma Steel furnace. You have to heat it up to I think a million degrees to get metal into a plasma state for that process to work. I would also assume that we could reverse the process to make alloys too, but I don't know for sure of that.

If we had to go with a regular blast furnace, there would be too much overhead and inefficiency to make it practical to use in space. In a blast furnace you need an atmosphere with a high oxygen content to work effectively. But, a Plasma Steel furnace would be a self-contained unit that would not have a smoke stack or need oxygen with coke to refine those metals. So, it would be a cleaner process that could be used on earth, moon, mars, space station or on asteroids. It would be a very versatile metal working process. By the way, the technology to do that already exist, but needs to be brought on line as a government inspired project of investments both inside the United States and in space. Also in space, you could make alloys that you can’t make on earth, because of gravity too and you could make ball barring super round with almost no imperfection in space too.

Larry,

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#7 2004-07-05 10:11:43

Martian Republic
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From: Haltom City- Dallas/Fort Worth
Registered: 2004-06-13
Posts: 855

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

What I would look for is an asteroid where a C and an M have collided, maybe with a stony as well, producing a composite body. Such an asteroid would be a "snowball" of chunks of all the different kinds, allowing you to harvest different things at different spots on the surface.

And to test the technology, Mars and the moon are littered with nickel-iron; I'd pick them up with regolith-moving equipment and a magnetic separator. It may very well be that once an operation starts on the moon and on Mars, the economy of scale and the presence of infrastructure because of other economic activities (science, tourism) may make asteroid mining too risky or uneconomic. The regoliths of both bodies have enough smashed nickel-iron for millennia of exploitation.

           -- RobS

Actually, with the development of both the Moon and Mars and setting up industries on both bodies, the asteroid field would be the next logical place to go. I support building at least one major city on Mars of a hundred thousand people. If that happens, I would expect to have around two hundred space ship going between Mars, the Moon and occasionally swinging out into the asteroid field picking something up. We will also probably have between 6 to 12 space station scattered out between Earth, Moon and Mars Colonies and maybe even one in the L5 for dry docks, ship building yard and maybe even a space station big enough for a space city.

You can't just put people on the moon and mars in large number without having the infrastructure to get them there. You build those space ship and space station infrastructure to build those city on the moon and Mars, you will be going into the asteroid field or at least some will be.

Larry,

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#8 2004-07-05 11:01:42

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
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Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

A blast furnace works by burning coke (carbon) with oxygen from the air to create heat. Combustion is starved of oxygen to create a high proportion of carbon monoxide, lots of oxygen would generate carbon dioxide. Hot iron oxide mineral will combine with carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and metallic iron.

Coke is created by baking coal with oxygen from air, not hot enough to ignite the carbon in coal but it is baked hot enough to burn sulphur with oxygen. This drives off sulphur as sulphur dioxide gas. Even a tiny amount of sulphur will greatly weaken steel so you want to keep it out of the blast furnace. Heat to bake coal is generated by burning some of the coal.

Note the blast furnace really needs heat and carbon monoxide. An electric furnace uses electricity to create heat. Carbon monoxide is introduced and carbon dioxide is the waste. You could recycle CO2 back into CO with the reverse water gas shift: 2 CO2 + H2 -> 2 CO + H2O

There are other purification reactions:
CaOCO3 -> CaO + CO2
FeS + CaO + C -> CaS + FeO + CO

However, on an M-type asteroid none of this is necessary. You don't need to smelt iron because it's already metallic. Instead of 1600°F or hotter, the Mond process only needs 230°C or hotter. The advantage of M-type asteroids is the ease you can remove metals vs. ore from C-type asteroids, Earth, Moon, or even Mars. Of course all you'll get from an M-type is metal.

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#9 2004-07-05 11:37:49

Grypd
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From: Scotland, Europe
Registered: 2004-06-07
Posts: 1,850

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

The use of Iron/Nickell-Carbonylls was and is a major way to construct components in space. The way to manage this is to have a mold and put the carbonyll liguid in, bleed of the carbon Dioxide leaving a solid very strong component in place. This works well for nickel but a lot less for iron.

Also would not the use of Ion-sputtering if it could be perfected be a way to get all the metals and materials from an asteroid.


Chan eil mi aig a bheil ùidh ann an gleidheadh an status quo; Tha mi airson cur às e.

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#10 2004-07-05 14:25:53

smurf975
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From: Netherlands
Registered: 2004-05-30
Posts: 401
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Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

I think exploiting space for pure raw materials is to expensive.

What you need is a high tech industry that builds "parts" that are worth more then their weight. Like microchips that use gold and other elements.


Waht? Tehr's a preveiw buottn?

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#11 2004-07-05 14:55:36

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
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Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

Name a commodity that can be exported from space to Earth for profit. Materials that can be used in space are easy to justify but have a very limited market. Propellant is an obvious candidate for in-space production. Microchips require a great deal of high precision processing and manual labour. I doubt you will get equipment in space that can make chips for even a simple satellite module. Photovoltaic arrays are a lot easier to make than microchips, but they take a lot of processing. The greater the mass of a component, the more economic sense it makes to manufacture in space. Microchips are high value and extremely low mass, so they will always be the commodity sent from Earth.

Ok, I just came up with two commodities you can make in space and sell to commercial satellite manufacturers: propellant and photovoltaic arrays. I'm still sceptical you will make photovoltaics of a useable form. Another commercial space industry will be removing orbital garbage. There are thousands of dead satellites or broken components in Earth orbit. They endanger working satellites and prevent use of any orbit they cross. Removing non-functional satellites and orbital debris could free an orbital position that a satellite operator wants to use. The orbital garbage truck will be one customer for propellant. Propellant to reboost a space station or space hotel will be another market.

But the question that investors on Earth will always ask is why go into space at all. Bringing back a profitable commodity will answer that question without reservation. I don't think industrial metals will every be a profitable export to Earth, but precious metals can be.

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#12 2004-07-05 15:24:32

Grypd
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From: Scotland, Europe
Registered: 2004-06-07
Posts: 1,850

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

Unfortunatly orbital manufacturing and mining is at a beginning stage. Im sure that we will find items that will make profits but at the moment if there is any it is a low class earner. We have proved in orbit we can make really large artificial crystals, just not what great economic benefit these can do. We know there is a lot of incredibly useful minerals, but it costs too much to get them. It is in a word frustrating. A lot of this societies and the other space advocacy groups lives would be a lot easier if we could point to something and say to the investor look Euros/Dollars/Pounds.

At the moment the only potential is research but it as all research is something that big buisness will rather do without, or expects results yesterday.

In the end until we get cheaper access to space we remain stuck here with our hopes and dreams.


Chan eil mi aig a bheil ùidh ann an gleidheadh an status quo; Tha mi airson cur às e.

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#13 2004-07-05 16:03:29

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
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Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

Seriously, I believe we are on the verge of commercialization of space. In 1984 I said that microcomputers (what we now call personal computers) would expand in capacity squeezing out mid-range computers. My prediction was that just before the year 2000, mid-range computers would cease to exist; we would have large microcomputers acting as servers and more modest ones acting as workstations. Economies of scale dictate that several smaller servers will be more cost effective than a single mainframe. Some mainframes will continue to exist where the task could not be broken down, such as airline reservations, but mid-range computers would be gone. That meant that the world leader in mid-range computers would be in great difficulty; they would either have to re-invent themselves or cease to exist. Digital Computer Corporation (DEC) was the second largest computer company in the world at that time, second only to IBM. No body believed me when I said DEC's days were numbered; but I was right. Now I'm predicting space will be a major growth market.

Burt Rutan and Jim Benson are working hard to bring common sense to the launch industry. The U.S. government will not tolerate continuation at current prices indefinitely. NASA and Congress had started several projects to replace Shuttle with something less expensive. Although all projects were cancelled, the fact that so many were started and so much money was spent on them demonstrated a strong demand to reduce cost. When private entrepreneurs start to deliver lower cost launch systems, government will support them. When launch costs come down, new space markets will open. Once the first profitable business is established, the whole industry will mushroom. (insert metaphor here for extremely rapid expansion)

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#14 2004-07-05 16:31:28

Grypd
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From: Scotland, Europe
Registered: 2004-06-07
Posts: 1,850

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

Burt Rutan is hoping for space tourism to take off, his hope is that there is a demand he can then make money. But for space tourism to really take off he has to have someplace for them to go. This is an earth orbiting hotel. Unfortunatly he seems to be the only group actively going to try, I hear many plans but none really get off the drawing pad.

If, space tourism does take off this will allow there to be a possible profit motive that would get more active funding. If we could make a lot of the components for a space hotel cheaper using a moon base or similar would it not fall that this would recieve private finance. But for this all to happen we still need cheaper access to space. So to be saying i think Mr Rutan and his white knight might be the only hope we have to get anywhere sometime soon is not too far off the mark.

I cannot see space manufacturing or mining being a direct profit motive at the moment. It will only happen as we start making other items in orbit that will be profitable. It will be the job of this society and the others to ensure that when the moment comes we can grasp it and run.

An Example,
If we can show that a robot lead base on the moon can make and transport structural materials to the Hotel at a cheaper rate than being Earth launched, we get funding. If we can show that we are ready to start building this base as soon as, we can close deals. If we also bring the research into it we can expand the base and get bigger. So when the next item that makes a profit in space needs support we are there to do it. All the time we are getting bigger and ready to go for what we want, In the case of This society, Mars


Chan eil mi aig a bheil ùidh ann an gleidheadh an status quo; Tha mi airson cur às e.

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#15 2004-07-05 17:32:16

smurf975
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From: Netherlands
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Posts: 401
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Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

You know there is a difference between NASA and commercial space flight!?

NASA is more like: "To boldly go where no man has gone before" and commercial spaceflight is more like to exploit space where man has been before, technologies needed are sure and tested (by NASA) and do I get a "short" term profit?

So there is a big difference between NASA and others. They don't compete at all. NASA is for commercial spaceflight a free R&D agency and that’s good as long as they are American companies or pay for the knowledge gathered by NASA. If so with that NASA will have even more value then without commercial spaceflight.

I mean everyone knows that NASA and military agencies broke any record set by the X price decades ago. So technically what Burtan is doing is nothing special as a lot of knowledgeable people will tell you as most of his designs were from other (tested) crafts.

Disclaimer: I still think what he did is cool but nothing worth all the crap I see across the Internet.

---

About raw materials vs high tech industry in space.

If you are going for raw materials I see no future for your enterprise as Earth has more then its needs (at this moment and the next 100 years). Only force driving might be that materials in space are cheaper in general but not to ship to general populations. But who will make the initial trillion dollar investments? NASA can't compete with private enterprises so forget them. And at this moment the market is quite happy with what it has. They market is more looking into cheap labor and automation then cheaper raw materials.

If the space debris orbiting earth is becoming a real problem, I'm sure there will be measures to make sure that satellites or rockets-parts will burn in the atmosphere instead of circling the earth when they are not needed anymore.

Your arguments against the possibility of a high tech industry in space will work with the same arguments against a mining industry in space. Both are impossible at this time and in my opinion only a high tech space industry is needed. With that I mean a high tech industry that is able to make "parts" in zero gravity. And those zero gravity “parts” are special and worth more then their weight. There is no other need for a space industry. You can do everything else on Earth.


Waht? Tehr's a preveiw buottn?

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#16 2004-07-05 20:07:05

Martian Republic
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From: Haltom City- Dallas/Fort Worth
Registered: 2004-06-13
Posts: 855

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

You know there is a difference between NASA and commercial space flight!?

NASA is more like: "To boldly go where no man has gone before" and commercial spaceflight is more like to exploit space where man has been before, technologies needed are sure and tested (by NASA) and do I get a "short" term profit?

So there is a big difference between NASA and others. They don't compete at all. NASA is for commercial spaceflight a free R&D agency and that’s good as long as they are American companies or pay for the knowledge gathered by NASA. If so with that NASA will have even more value then without commercial spaceflight.

I mean everyone knows that NASA and military agencies broke any record set by the X price decades ago. So technically what Burtan is doing is nothing special as a lot of knowledgeable people will tell you as most of his designs were from other (tested) crafts.

Disclaimer: I still think what he did is cool but nothing worth all the crap I see across the Internet.

---

About raw materials vs high tech industry in space.

If you are going for raw materials I see no future for your enterprise as Earth has more then its needs (at this moment and the next 100 years). Only force driving might be that materials in space are cheaper in general but not to ship to general populations. But who will make the initial trillion dollar investments? NASA can't compete with private enterprises so forget them. And at this moment the market is quite happy with what it has. They market is more looking into cheap labor and automation then cheaper raw materials.

If the space debris orbiting earth is becoming a real problem, I'm sure there will be measures to make sure that satellites or rockets-parts will burn in the atmosphere instead of circling the earth when they are not needed anymore.

Your arguments against the possibility of a high tech industry in space will work with the same arguments against a mining industry in space. Both are impossible at this time and in my opinion only a high tech space industry is needed. With that I mean a high tech industry that is able to make "parts" in zero gravity. And those zero gravity “parts” are special and worth more then their weight. There is no other need for a space industry. You can do everything else on Earth.

smurf you hit the problem on the head. It not cost effective to build industry space without having populated center in space. It not cost effective to build populated center in space with industry and a transportation system. It not cost effective to develop transportation system without have either industry or population center in outer space.

The only way you can break that loop is to have a Kennedy type space program of having a national mission like going to the Moon, but only a little and more aggressive. Is to give NASA the authority to build cities either on the Moon and/or Mar and/or L5 and maybe a few space station along with developing the technology and then open it up to private business to get government contracts from NASA. Beside building those city, use NASA to finance developing the new technology and use mostly private enterprise to internalize that new technology. That was basically what happened when we went to the Moon and we got 14 dollar pay off for every 1 dollars spent going to the moon in technological spin off and business activities.

That way you can hit the problem head on, instead of dipping and diving and trying to find the most cost effective way to do something. Because if you go the most cost effective with present technology, you will make what your doing impossible to accomplish.

I suggest we give NASA a list of perimeter that we want to accomplish to the goal we want to achieve in a certain time frame. We deliberately choose to pick some thing just outside of our technological capability to accomplish, but not to far outside our technological capability, because we want to be able to accomplish our goal in a reasonable period of time. We list out the technology that we need to develop and infrastructure that we need to build to accomplish the goal that we set. Any thing that private enterprise can do at or below the price that NASA can do it will be off loaded to those private companies or area’s that NASA does not get into, those private companies can have like tourism, hotel, private shuttle, deep space crews ships and space industries. This is basically what Kennedy did with the Moon Mission, but this is on a grander scale.

But, we pick our target and then we asked:

What it going to take to do that?

Let say we choose a big target for National Goal like build a city on Mars of 100,000 people.

Just exactly what would we need to accomplish our goal?

We need to question like:

To deal with bone loss because of weightlessness what kind of technology would we have to develop so we could put a one gee load on our space ship going to Mars half way and then rotate it and decelerate the half the way to Mars?

How many ships would you need and how big should they be?

What kind of cargo ship would you build?

How many space station would you need, beside the one in earth orbit and mars orbit?

Beside the four fusion electric powered, a nuclear powered desalting plant and a plasma steel plant, what else would you want to show up with on Mars?

Larry,

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#17 2004-07-05 21:07:28

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 5,859
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Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

The steel industry was content to use World War 2 furnaces until one Canadian company decided to build a better one. They were able to make steel that was more pure, and therefore stronger, and do so at lower cost. There were able to sell their product at lower cost per pound while still making enough money to make their bank loan payments and have profit left over to pay dividends to share holders. They significantly increased their market share, until protectionists got involved.

Profit from space doesn't have to be something the 'industry' is chasing right now. If it can be done profitably and with significant return on investment then it is worth while.

As for government being the only saviour: if that was going to happen it would have by now. This is July 2004, 35 years since the Apollo Moon landing. NASA and the U.S. government had that long to establish infrastructure in space to kick-start an economy, but has chosen not to. This demonstrates they just aren't going to. Don't get me wrong, if you want to seek money from NASA then please go ahead. Just don't expect giant space colonies or Moon cities built at taxpayers' expense.

The U.S. government must look for profit from its investments. Where will the profit come from? One mandate of NASA is to investigate high-risk high-reward technological development. But building a city of 100,000 people on a planet far far away, is a very expensive venture. That would take more than the combined budget of NASA and the entire U.S. military. How long do you think the taxpayer support that level of expenditure? It would take more than 1 term of office, so don't expect the venture to be completed before cancellation. Let's look at the record of cancellations: DC-X, X-33/VentureStar, X-43A/C, X-38/CRV. How many others?

What we need is something modest that does not tap NASA for more than it has now, yet will generate profit to support its own growth. Once you start talking about profit in the short term, you gain access to venture capital (private investment).

By the way, Jim Benson runs SpaceDev as a separate company. Burt Rutan and his company Scaled Composites is just a major customer. Scaled Composites build Space Ship One and White Knight, SpaceDev build the rocket engine for SS1. And they aren't the only ones in the market today; Elon Musk is building Falcon X. The age of the space entrepreneur has started. The strangle hold of the big aerospace companies is now ending. The new corporate paradigm is "be efficient or be dead".

Brad Blair told me at PTMSS that we now have 3 decades of accumulated good ideas, we don't need good ideas we need the opportunity to implement them. But I argue that if the ideas were really that good we wouldn't need government funding. We still need to brainstorm a profitable business plan. Yes, it's still a matter of do it privately or wait for some other generation.

George W. Bush is focusing on War (with practically everyone). He threw a bone to the space community when he recognised everyone in the community sees the need to give focus to NASA. So he had an opportunity: claim to provide that focus that everyone felt must come from the president, and gain political points for doing so, or fail to do so and suffer the political consequences. He really has no idea how to accomplish any of the goals he set out. He's just trying to cover his political butt, and attempting to turn a negative into a positive. Yes, this can be a benefit to the space community if we can capitalize on it; but it doesn't include any new money. Certainly don't expect money to pay for building a Mars city with 100,000 residents.

So, can we continue to brainstorm asteroid mining? This is a simple technique to gain direct profit from space. The directness of this profit will gain investor attention. I do expect to sell as much gold as a major gold mine on Earth, no more and no less. I also expect to sell as much platinum as a major platinum mine. And silver, etc. Those who are obsessed with precious metal cartels will notice this will either demand participation by those cartels or the cartels will be broken.

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#18 2004-07-06 10:34:46

Grypd
Member
From: Scotland, Europe
Registered: 2004-06-07
Posts: 1,850

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

I dont think any buisness interest will build a lunar or similar base, It requires a goverment to do that. But a goverment could create a company to do it. What im thinking is a company like the British East India company. This companies duty is to create the bases and would recieve a stipend from the goverment to do so, which slowly reduces. This company would do the research that allows profits to be made and would be granted the only licence to get them and to exploit.
The East indies company became a patriotic thing to invest in, It attracted the cream of people to work for it, It made new trade routes and colonized new lands, It had its own army and navy and was responsible for the forming of the British empire.


Chan eil mi aig a bheil ùidh ann an gleidheadh an status quo; Tha mi airson cur às e.

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#19 2004-07-06 12:10:04

GCNRevenger
Member
From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

So, can we continue to brainstorm asteroid mining? This is a simple technique to gain direct profit from space. The directness of this profit will gain investor attention. I do expect to sell as much gold as a major gold mine on Earth, no more and no less. I also expect to sell as much platinum as a major platinum mine. And silver, etc. Those who are obsessed with precious metal cartels will notice this will either demand participation by those cartels or the cartels will be broken.

No, no it isn't. Its not simple, and its not profitable. Plus, putting more precious materials into the market will reduce the price you can sell them for, so then you have to ship more mass to make money, which costs loads more for spacecraft than it does to simply dig more out of the ground... which will simply put you out of business.

SpaceDev, Scaled Composits, Armadillo Aerospace... none of them will ever build an orbital space vehicle at this rate, not on millionaire handouts, prizes, and dinky tourist flights. Elon Musk's rocket made to compete with the Delta-II, the Falcon-V, is supposed to go from paper concept to blueprint to prototype in only a year or two from now with an untested engine? And even then, it will be too light to carry anything but satelites.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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#20 2004-07-06 13:31:22

BWhite
Member
From: Chicago, Illinois
Registered: 2004-06-16
Posts: 2,635

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

smurf you hit the problem on the head. It not cost effective to build industry space without having populated center in space. It not cost effective to build populated center in space with industry and a transportation system. It not cost effective to develop transportation system without have either industry or population center in outer space.

Find an aspirational reason to settle space, a motive that is price inelastic, and the ice breaks.


Give someone a sufficient why and they can endure just about any how

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#21 2004-07-06 13:45:12

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 5,859
Website

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

Its not simple, and its not profitable. Plus, putting more precious materials into the market will reduce the price you can sell them for, so then you have to ship more mass to make money, which costs loads more for spacecraft than it does to simply dig more out of the ground... which will simply put you out of business.

Mining an asteroid is no different than opening any new mine on Earth. Are you trying to tell me that gold mining on Earth is not profitable? That opening any new mine will cause a market price crash and put the new mine out of business? I did say the quantity would be equivalent to a major mine on Earth, no more and no less. The economics of opening a new mine are well established.

SpaceDev, Scaled Composits, Armadillo Aerospace... none of them will ever build an orbital space vehicle at this rate, not on millionaire handouts, prizes, and dinky tourist flights. Elon Musk's rocket made to compete with the Delta-II, the Falcon-V, is supposed to go from paper concept to blueprint to prototype in only a year or two from now with an untested engine? And even then, it will be too light to carry anything but satelites.

Every good business plan starts with the minimum up-front captial to get a profitable operation. You aren't supposed to jump right in manufacturing dozens of 747s per year. Manufacturing on that scale is for an established company, not a new one. Any new company must start small and grow from the profits of its earlier operations.

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#22 2004-07-06 13:52:25

clark
Member
Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,253

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

Mining an asteroid is no different than opening any new mine on Earth.

You're right, there is no difference. However, what kills asteroid mining is the transportation costs, which cause the cost of mining said mineral to exceed the intital value.

We could find a mountain of gold floating nearby, worth 1 trillion dollars, but if it cost a trillion and ONE dollars to mine it, then there isn't any point of mining it.

Take oil for example- there is a lot oil available. However, a lot of the oil that is available isn't worth it because it would cost more to mine it and prep it than it is worth.

Couple all of this with the environment of space, and it increases the overhead related to infrastructure- to intital capital investment in order to reap a profit. On earth, dig a hole, sift, then sell. Out in space- with the extremes of the environment, with the derth of experience, it costs more than it is worth.

Now you put people up there, then you don't have to transport that ore as far to find a market for it. People are they key. If you can't get to market, bring the market to you!  big_smile

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#23 2004-07-06 14:12:57

GCNRevenger
Member
From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

Mining an asteroid is no different than opening any new mine on Earth. Are you trying to tell me that gold mining on Earth is not profitable? That opening any new mine will cause a market price crash and put the new mine out of business? I did say the quantity would be equivalent to a major mine on Earth, no more and no less. The economics of opening a new mine are well established.

Every good business plan starts with the minimum up-front captial to get a profitable operation. You aren't supposed to jump right in manufacturing dozens of 747s per year. Manufacturing on that scale is for an established company, not a new one. Any new company must start small and grow from the profits of its earlier operations.

I think I must be misunderstanding you... you aren't claiming that opening a mine on an asteroid outside of Earth's gravity well on a frozen/burning rock with no gravity and no air without a very large nuclear reactor and a massive mining rig plus spacecraft to carry the material back to Earth in any economic quantity... is as easy as digging a hole on Earth, are you?

As for the usual Wright Flyer ---> 747 Airliner thingie, there are two noteable differences which makes the analogy irrelivent... Gravity and chemistry. Simply put, because chemical rocket engines are at the limits of what is theoreticly possible with practical fuels, the size of the vehicle needed to go from Space Ship One to an orbital craft is roughly two orders of magnetude. There will be no progress "between" these two levels of spaceflight, because you either reach orbital Delta-V, or you don't: there isn't any point building a vehicle between minimal suborbital and orbital, so there isn't any profit, and hence it won't happen.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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#24 2004-07-06 14:24:06

clark
Member
Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,253

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

If god had meant for man to fly, he would have given us lenient financing terms. tongue  big_smile

Simply put, because chemical rocket engines are at the limits of what is theoreticly possible with practical fuels, the size of the vehicle needed to go from Space Ship One to an orbital craft is roughly two orders of magnetude

So it needs to be bigger? It needs to have more engines?

Kind of like Wright Brothers first plane, and a 747?

This is all so silly. We get bound up in concepts, without looking at the options. None of which have to do with asteroid mining.

You need cheap launch. the cheaper, the better. You need the ability to stuff a lot of people into a small space- the more, the better.

Both of these will lead to an orbital industry. Why? Because it is the basis of every single roller coaster. You don't go on a roller coaster to go anywhere- the roller coaster is the journey, and the destination, all at once.

Getting people up there for a few minutes leads to people wanting to be up there for a few hours- then days, then weeks, then months, then years- then for a lifetime.

This leads to people up there demanding stuff. Lot's of stuff. That leads to enterprising people looking to ways to supply stuff at less cost and greater profit. That leads to asteroid mining.

Mining asteroids for water and rocket fuel makes more sense. Catch a comet.

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#25 2004-07-06 14:39:08

GCNRevenger
Member
From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

Re: Asteroid Mining - profit from space

So it needs to be bigger? It needs to have more engines?

Kind of like Wright Brothers first plane, and a 747?

Both of these will lead to an orbital industry. Why? Because it is the basis of every single roller coaster. You don't go on a roller coaster to go anywhere- the roller coaster is the journey, and the destination, all at once.

Getting people up there for a few minutes leads to people wanting to be up there for a few hours- then days, then weeks, then months, then years- then for a lifetime.

Reality check/physics microlecture:

The trouble is, you can't go from minutes of zero-G at 100km to hours/days/orbit at 200km without a roughly 200-300 fold increase in the weight of your rocket. The weight of any rocket vehicle, and so to large extent its cost, increases exponentially with performance.

I will say it one more time, you can't work your way up to orbit.

There is a gulf, a gap, a rift, a chasem, a big hole in performance between what you need for suborbital, and what you need for fully orbital flight. There just isn't any money to be made in only going half way accross... a bridge to nowhere!


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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