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Thread: Asteroid mining? Google billionaires, James Cameron, & "Planetary Resources, Inc"

  1. #211
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    Quote Originally Posted by Antice View Post
    Except they arent expecting a return on asteroid mining at all in the near future.
    They're on the record as stating they plan to be returning asteroid resources within 10 years.

    Obviously - I don't think they will be doing that. That is, however, their on the record plan.

    Also - I don't buy your idea that they'll be servicing their own vehicles.... they've already described them as 'disposable'

  2. #212
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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    They're on the record as stating they plan to be returning asteroid resources within 10 years.
    I have heard "Natural resources" plenty of times, and plenty of people equating that with mining.
    I've also seen references to things that can be interpreted as a simple sample return.

    So; I don't know where you get this statement from or what they actually said. Did I miss something?

  3. #213
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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post

    If PRI is a failure ( I think it will - a very public one at that ) I think it will harm the reputation and image of new-space in general.

    Doug
    They will make a killing--it just won't be by mining asteroids. They will start out by selling satellite surveillance services to Big Brother. Then they'll move into laser telecommunications. Potentially $100B+. Also, the government pork is already rolling in:

    Planetary Resources getting SBIR funding to achieve 100 times improvement to 0.1 arcsecond small space telecope pointing

    Not really necessary for asteroid surveys....

  4. #214
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    They will make a killing--it just won't be by mining asteroids......
    Which will make a LOT of people go 'Huh?' and think they've been lied to.

    Also - I don't see laser comms or as a $100B+ industry for them. Right now - the building of comms sats is a $10-15B/annum industry - ( http://www.sia.org/PDF/2011%20State%...ne%202011).pdf - page 8 ) - just 7% of the total revenue for communication is in building hardware. MOST of the resulting revenue is from satellite TV subscriptions. Where does Optical play into that? Remote sensing? Geoeye and DigitalGlobe - a few $100 M's per year. NRO? They have their nice happy contracts with nice friendly contractors that keep things nice and secret.....I really don't think this startup's going to be able to take over the market and scale it up an order of magnitude...whilst reducing costs by orders of magnitude at the same time. That's burning expectation from both ends...it doesn't add up. 10x more money than the industry currently expends, whilst doing it, say, 10x cheaper, that's asking the industry to grow 100 fold.

    Could they make some money from their small-sat tech? Sure. $100B?
    Where do you get your $100B from? That's Apple/Microsoft kind of money. I don't see it.


    Also - 'Government Pork'. Come on Warren - a little perspective here. http://sbir.nasa.gov/sbirweb/search/...irm_id=1100142

    It's <$125k.

    It's not exactly SLS.

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    In the news conference, they seemed to be very careful to point out the risk, and to point out there was a lot of work to be done. I think most people realize there's risk in new things anyway. If they fail (and I'm certainly not saying they will), they'd hardly be the first "new space" effort to do so. Anyway, djellison it's not up to you, they're going ahead with this company whether you like it or not.

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  6. #216
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    Anyway, djellison it's not up to you, they're going ahead with this company whether you like it or not.
    Ermm. I know. What a very strange thing to say.

    This is a discussion forum where people trade and discuss opinions. Nothing more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    Ermm. I know. What a very strange thing to say.
    Well, after seeing you say the same thing repeatedly, that wasn't obvious to me.

    This is a discussion forum where people trade and discuss opinions. Nothing more.
    I'd like to see discussion. Like maybe we could actually discuss possibilities of how they might optimize cost reduction and return for asteroid mining in an asteroid mining thread. Oh, well.

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  8. #218
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    They will make a killing--it just won't be by mining asteroids. They will start out by selling satellite surveillance services to Big Brother. Then they'll move into laser telecommunications. Potentially $100B+. Also, the government pork is already rolling in:

    Planetary Resources getting SBIR funding to achieve 100 times improvement to 0.1 arcsecond small space telecope pointing

    Not really necessary for asteroid surveys....
    There is a Space Exploration exception to the no politics rule, but this is getting close to the line. Please be careful about the editorial comments about government programs.
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  9. #219
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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    They're on the record as stating they plan to be returning asteroid resources within 10 years.

    Obviously - I don't think they will be doing that. That is, however, their on the record plan.

    Also - I don't buy your idea that they'll be servicing their own vehicles.... they've already described them as 'disposable'

    I have a question, out of curiousity have you ever started your own business?

  10. #220
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    Nice way to derail the discussion. No - I havn't. Are you inferring that if I have not, my opinion regarding the validity of planetary mining is somehow less valid?

    That's a backward argument from authority - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

    I've presented numbers as to why I don't think it'll work. No one has responded with their own numbers showing why it will.

    Maybe you've started many businesses. Maybe you've started an asteroid mining company...

    Show us all how it's fiscally sound.

  11. #221
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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    Which will make a LOT of people go 'Huh?' and think they've been lied to.

    Also - I don't see laser comms or as a $100B+ industry for them. Right now - the building of comms sats is a $10-15B/annum industry - ( http://www.sia.org/PDF/2011%20State%...ne%202011).pdf - page 8 ) - just 7% of the total revenue for communication is in building hardware. MOST of the resulting revenue is from satellite TV subscriptions. Where does Optical play into that? Remote sensing? Geoeye and DigitalGlobe - a few $100 M's per year. NRO? They have their nice happy contracts with nice friendly contractors that keep things nice and secret.....I really don't think this startup's going to be able to take over the market and scale it up an order of magnitude...whilst reducing costs by orders of magnitude at the same time. That's burning expectation from both ends...it doesn't add up. 10x more money than the industry currently expends, whilst doing it, say, 10x cheaper, that's asking the industry to grow 100 fold.

    Could they make some money from their small-sat tech? Sure. $100B?
    Where do you get your $100B from? That's Apple/Microsoft kind of money. I don't see it.


    Also - 'Government Pork'. Come on Warren - a little perspective here. http://sbir.nasa.gov/sbirweb/search/...irm_id=1100142

    It's <$125k.

    It's not exactly SLS.
    I just figured if the total space activity is $160B/year, maybe they could grab a $100B chunk of that if their laser technology was really that great. But I didn't know that most of that is satellite TV subscriptions, and I have to agree that optics wouldn't fit into that much. (Maybe they could optically link all the satellites, so if you don't think you have enough crap to choose from on the one satellite your dish is pointed at, you could look at the content from all the TV satellites!) Thus I agree they're probably looking at low $10B's at best in their satellite business. (Which is still more than they could make in propellant sales, in any case.)

    That said, I must admit I'm starting to come around to the view that the asteroid mining thing could possibly work. The KISS asteroid retriever seems plausible, and would make an interesting NASA project. But of course that merely brings back a rock to Earth orbit. That's the easy part.

    But our old friend, Jon Clarke, has recently described a process for removing water from hydrated minerals on Mars:



    I think I can see how it could be modified to work in a zero g space station.

    1. Check out the picture of the BA2100. It would actually be big enough to hold one of these 10-meter meteoroids. The basic stripped down shell (without all the interior furnishings) would mass 70 mT.



    2. The bay doors would have to be increased in size. On the inside it would have a few manipulators armed with various attachments such as the rotating pulverizer in the picture below.



    3. The bay would be pressurized, so after the meteoroid was tore apart by the pulverizers, air currents and the arms would move the chunks into a regular rock crusher. The air currents would flow through the rock crusher thus keeping the material moving.

    4. The crushed rock would flow into a drum or bin with a fine screen at the bottom that would separate the crushed rock from the air current. When it filled up, the drum would be heated to 500C which should be enough to liberate the water from the hydrated iron-magnesium silicates. Again, since nothing flows naturally in zero g, air would be forced through the drum as it was being heated which would carry off any water vapor liberated.

    5. The water vapor/air mixture would then flow through a condenser.

    6. After passing through the condenser, the air would suck the water droplets into a fairly large, rotating, collection tank (a few RPM's would be enough) and directed at the side of the tank. There the water would tend to stick to the sides and stay put due to the centrifugal force.

    7. The collection tank could double as the water cracker. It would have a central baffle that would divide the tank in two, but with some holes near the sides of the tank to allow water (and current) to flow between the sides. One side would have the anode, the other the cathode. Since the tank is rotating, the bubbles of H2 and O2 will tend to flow "up" toward the center and form an ullage in the center of the tank. However, the central baffle would keep the gases separate.

    8. From the central ullage of the cracking tank, the gases would then be fed into the cryocooling unit to be converted into LH2/LO2.

    9. The tailings: not sure what to do about them. Some could be used for radiation shielding for a manned station at EML1/2. The rest I guess could go back into the SEP retrieval unit; it would have to be refueled, but then it could push the bag of tailings out of Earth orbit, preferably to a high enough orbit where there would be little risk of it becoming an Earth impactor. If it could be rigged with a solar sail economically, that would be best since it would slowly spiral back out to the Main Belt where it originally came from.

    Economics: a 1,000 mT type CI asteroid could be expected to contain perhaps 20% "water" in the form of hydroxyls bound within crystals of serpentine. If you could get this, perhaps 130 mT of LH2/LO2 (mass ratio 5) could be produced which could be sold possibly for up to a half billion USD (~$4000/kg) at an L2 depot. (SpaceX is currently advertising $2K/kg launch services which would cost $5K/kg at L2 at a minimum.

    The main problem is that the lead time from launch of SEP retriever until asteroid delivery is like 10 years. Thus, if they want to produce 500 mT of LH2/LO2 per year, they would have to launch 5 SEP's per year for 10 years (longer than that if they can't be reused). If the wet mass of an SEP retriever was 25 mT, then the IMLEO just for the SEP retrievers is 5 SEP's/year * 25 mT ea. * 10 years = 1250 mT. However, once they got to mass producing these units, I can see how they could get the unit cost down to $100M each, including launch costs aboard a Falcon 9. That wouldn't be bad, as it would allow a $400M ROI.

    The BA2100 processing unit would mass at least 100 mT (70 mT for the BA2100 shell plus 30 mT for the rest); in addition, it would require an SEP booster to move it to L2. However, the entire 130 mT package could be entirely ground integrated and could be launched on a single Block 2 SLS. (Of course, if the production current schedule is to be believed, a single SLS launch will cost $6B....) Thus total IMLEO (not counting scouting Arkyds) would be around 1380 mT. A standard rule of thumb is that the dry mass of a spacecraft = $30K/kg. Thus a 100 mT processing plant would cost $3B. But since these guys are supposed to be magical commercial operators, perhaps they could get it down to a billion. But even at $3B, if they processed 2 asteroids per year, the processing plant could be paid for in 3 or 4 years, which isn't too bad.
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  12. #222
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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    Nice way to derail the discussion. No - I havn't. Are you inferring that if I have not, my opinion regarding the validity of planetary mining is somehow less valid?

    That's a backward argument from authority - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

    I've presented numbers as to why I don't think it'll work. No one has responded with their own numbers showing why it will.

    Maybe you've started many businesses. Maybe you've started an asteroid mining company...

    Show us all how it's fiscally sound.

    No, it's not a backward arguement from authority, it's confirming what I already suspected. You're argument about its potential failure "teaching billionaires not to invest in space" is based on a false premise, that everyone views risk the same way you do. I haven't commented on the specifics of the business case yet because I haven't had time to read it, although I should have time for that in the next few days.

    But I also believe that it is premature to say it is doomed to fail. Why? Because for one thing business plans are not set in stone, they should change to reflect developments in the market. Secondly good management can go a long way. Google was the most successful of the few survivors of the dot com bubble for a reason.

  13. #223
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    The KISS asteroid retriever seems plausible, and would make an interesting NASA project. But of course that merely brings back a rock to Earth orbit. That's the easy part.
    Nope - it brings it back to a high lunar orbit.


    Economics: a 1,000 mT type CI asteroid could be expected to contain perhaps 20% "water" in the form of hydroxyls bound within crystals of serpentine. If you could get this, perhaps 130 mT of LH2/LO2 (mass ratio 5) could be produced which could be sold possibly for up to a half billion USD (~$4000/kg) at an L2 depot. (SpaceX is currently advertising $2K/kg launch services which would cost $5K/kg at L2 at a minimum.
    My problem with this is simply...who's the customers? Who needs fuel at L2? We can't afford to build and launch spacecraft that might go and use it. Moreover - what mission profile. Moreover - the C type asteroids that hit those 20% figures are more distant, and thus harder to get, and thus you're not going to be able to get that 70:1 return - it'll be more like the 27:1

    If the wet mass of an SEP retriever was 25 mT, then the IMLEO just for the SEP retrievers is 5 SEP's/year * 25 mT ea. * 10 years = 1250 mT. However, once they got to mass producing these units, I can see how they could get the unit cost down to $100M each, including launch costs aboard a Falcon 9. That wouldn't be bad, as it would allow a $400M ROI.
    The KISS study says $2.6B for the first, and $1B thereafter for vehicles that return 500 to 1250 Tons to high lunar orbit. Where do you find another order of magnitude of savings over their own estimates? Their numbers say that 5 a year is $5B. which, if it were 5 x 1000mT 20% water-content asteroids, is 1000 tons of water, at $5k/kg. Which SpaceX can match today. But to get those 20% numbers, you're visiting more distant asteroids which get you only half the mass return for the SEP retriever. So $10K/kg...which makes no fiscal sense at all.

    The BA2100 processing unit would mass at least 100 mT (70 mT for the BA2100 shell plus 30 mT for the rest); in addition, it would require an SEP booster to move it to L2. However, the entire 130 mT package could be entirely ground integrated and could be launched on a single Block 2 SLS. (Of course, if the production current schedule is to be believed, a single SLS launch will cost $6B....) Thus total IMLEO (not counting scouting Arkyds) would be around 1380 mT. A standard rule of thumb is that the dry mass of a spacecraft = $30K/kg. Thus a 100 mT processing plant would cost $3B
    Plus $6B to launch it (on a rocket that probably wont ever exist). That's $9B...and I don't see where you can make that money back - I don't think they can produce product affordably to offset layout of development, infrastructure and vehicles, and things like servicing, repair, resupply etc - that's $100M's missions just to keep something like that up and running. And, the more expensive a spacecraft - the more expensive it is to make. That asteroid muncher is a very complicated spacecraft. It's not a simply thing like a telecom sat. Something like ISS is closer to $250k/kg. MRO's dry mass is 1,000kg - and it cost something like $500k/kg. Something with complex robotics, MSL, (lets be kind and count the full 4 ton entry mass) - >$600k/kg. Even very simple BEO SEP spacecraft - Dawn, for example, about $300k/kg. The little NEAR mission - same sort of figure. Terrestar-1 - largest Comm sat to date - just been sold for $1.3B - $200k/kg.

    Where does your $30k figure come from? Which large, complex spacecraft only cost that much?

    But since these guys are supposed to be magical commercial operators, perhaps they could get it down to a billion. But even at $3B, if they processed 2 asteroids per year, the processing plant could be paid for in 3 or 4 years, which isn't too bad.
    Magical. Maybe that's the way you make money out of asteroid resources. Magic.

  14. #224
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    I think I can see how it could be modified to work in a zero g space station.
    Or perhaps the asteroid might be processed in place. If the transport has solar panels for ion thrusters, they might serve double duty to provide power for processing. The asteroid can be bagged, the material ground up with a muncher sent inside. Remember, this isn't a big asteroid, so we don't need to assume massive hardware. Then heat ground asteroid in a small oven (possibly powered by electricity from the panels, or possibly heated with parabolic reflector) to drive out volatiles. Spinning the oven might be useful. Collect the volatiles, dump the excess, return home.

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    Yes, it does appear they're looking at in-situ extraction. From:

    http://www.planetaryresources.com/technology/

    Recovery and processing of materials in a microgravity environment will occur through significant research and development. Planetary Resources will lead the creation of critical in-situ extraction and processing technologies to provide access to both asteroidal water and metals.
    From another page, it looks like they're planning on using water as reaction mass:

    http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/usage/


    The economics of an asteroid mining operation can also be enhanced by the use of in-situ propellant. Mining spacecraft can travel across interplanetary space using water reclaimed from the very asteroid it is mining, leading to a high “mass payback ratio” where a single ton of mining equipment can be used to obtain hundreds of tons of mined resources.
    And presumably they would be designing for very long use, use multiple times.

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  16. #226
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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    Again - projecting what I mean into something else, assuming an opinion for me. Not cool. Please stop doing it.

    I have not attempted to make a case for or against depots.
    Um, it was called a joke--thus the smiley face. I never said here that you were against depots--it was merely an aside.


    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    a single SLS launch will cost $6B
    I really have to question that inflated figure.

    Even the shuttle didn't cost that much per launch (1.5 billion) and it had an orbiter.

    Most HLV costs were considered a billion a shot or less and that was worst case scenario from everything I've read in the recent past.

    Even with price inflation, "HEFT estimate Block 0 unit cost at $1.6 billion" from the wiki. See also
    http://www.nasawatch.com/images/heft.presentation.pdf

    Remember the thesis from ages ago, the AV week article way back that I cited showing (on the topic of depots) that depots would cost more than HLV--as per Hopkins, etc. Again, with 200 million per 20 tons on D-IV 'heavy', thats a billion a shot per 100 tons there. Falcon 9--we will wait and see.

    Back on topic:

    Just bagging a pretty good size asteroid in a BEAL transhab deal would allow a shirtsleeve environment at least--and keep things from floating away. Now if the bag is strong enough, you can use it to brace yourself and bear down with tools.
    Last edited by publiusr; 2012-May-11 at 08:42 PM.

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    A little more on the subject of mining--first some links to enabling tech:
    http://www.rfreitas.com/Astro/TerraformSRS1983.htm

    A self replicating system was estimated by the first side to have these dimentions
    "For purposes of the present work, the NASA figures for the baseline SRS "seed" configuration are adopted as follows: Mass, 100 tons; power, 1 MW; replication time, 1 year; circular radius, 50 metres; and operating temperatures, 173-373 K."

    Now imagine, if you will, a large bag to gather large asteroid bits cut off by cables, explosives, etc. The SRS would be at the end to digest--perhaps this could help:
    http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=14455
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/...-of-metal.html

    The end result would be to extrude the asteroids mass into wire form (also to simplify the mechanism), where it can hold a charge. In this way, the asteroid-become-wire it will feel forces differently. Now that it is more than just a ballistic slug, we can excahnge Newtoon for Maxwell, Tesla, etc:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superco...energy_storage
    http://www.niac.usra.edu/files/libra...12Komerath.pdf
    http://www.nss.org/settlement/Distan...ns_chap06.html
    http://www.space.com/2129-research-w...yperdrive.html

    Thus we turn the asteroid into wireframe and make it perhaps more mobile. Thoughts?

    Artificial life?
    http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=14455
    Last edited by publiusr; 2012-May-18 at 10:00 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    And a thousand post-apocalyptic sci-fi stories are born.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glom View Post
    And a thousand post-apocalyptic sci-fi stories are born.

    Not to mention countless Mystery Science Theater 3000 level movies.

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    A lot of applicants
    http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=14721

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