Saturday, August 13, 2016

Is this going to be cost-effective?

Deep Space Industries has announced that they're planning to launch an asteroid "mining" satellite within three years.  It's not really going to mine an asteroid -- it's going to survey for the presence of water ice.

They say that if they have an asteroid with water ice, it can be used as a refueling stop for other space probes.

In my opinion, there are a lot of problems with this plan.  For one thing, the space probe that needs refueling would have to have a mission plan that would get it close enough to a water-bearing asteroid.  The deep space probes used so far either have hydrazine (not a water-based propellant), or ion engines (which use very, very little fuel).

So I don't know if there's a client list for this plan. But they seem confident that there will be
"The company ultimately plans to develop follow-on missions that will extract water ice from asteroids, which the company can then sell to other customers for use as in-space propellant or other applications, reducing the cost of missions that would otherwise have to launch those resources from the Earth."

If there are such missions, they have a chance. If not, at least we'll know if a couple asteroids have water.

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