Dynamics of a non-rigid orbital siphon at a near-Earth asteroid

Viale, A. , McInnes, C. and Ceriotti, M. (2020) Dynamics of a non-rigid orbital siphon at a near-Earth asteroid. Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, 43(11), pp. 1998-2012. (doi: 10.2514/1.G004894)

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The orbital siphon is a novel concept for propellantless payload transfer from the surface of a rotating body to orbit. In the context of asteroid mining, the orbital siphon represents an efficient solution to deliver mined material from the asteroid surface to an orbiting station for later processing or storage. The key idea is that the centrifugal-induced force exerted on a tether-connected chain of payload masses assembled from the surface of a rotating body can be large enough to pull the lower masses to initialize an orbital siphon effect: new payloads are connected to the chain while upper payloads are removed. In this paper, the dynamics of an orbital siphon anchored to two irregularly shaped near-Earth asteroids is investigated. The siphon is modeled as a closed chain of tether-connected buckets kept taut by two pulleys: one at the asteroid surface and one attached to an orbiting collecting spacecraft. Buckets are filled with asteroid material to be delivered to the collecting spacecraft. It is shown that the irregularities of the gravitational field do not introduce instabilities to the orbital siphon system for the scenarios presented in this paper. Without any braking mechanism required, the average speed of the siphon does not diverge but reaches a constant value at a steady state. Moreover, it is shown that the siphon effect is still generated when the anchor moves on the asteroid surface, allowing the mining location to be moved without interrupting the flow of material to the collecting spacecraft.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:CM is supported by a Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Engineering Technologies and a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Viale, Mr Andrea and Ceriotti, Dr Matteo and McInnes, Professor Colin
Authors: Viale, A., McInnes, C., and Ceriotti, M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Systems Power and Energy
College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Electronics and Nanoscale Engineering
Journal Name:Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics
Publisher:American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
ISSN (Online):1533-3884
Published Online:16 July 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 Andrea Viale, Collin McInnes, and Matteo Ceriotti
First Published:First published in Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics 43(11):1998–2012
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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