Economic assessment of high-thrust and solar-sail propulsion for near-Earth asteroid mining

Vergaaij, M. , McInnes, C. R. and Ceriotti, M. (2021) Economic assessment of high-thrust and solar-sail propulsion for near-Earth asteroid mining. Advances in Space Research, 67(9), pp. 3045-3058. (doi: 10.1016/j.asr.2020.06.012)

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Asteroid mining has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of in-space manufacturing, production of propellant for space transportation and consumables for crewed spacecraft, compared to launching the required resources from the Earth’s deep gravity well. This paper discusses the top-level mission architecture and trajectory design for these resource-return missions, comparing high-thrust trajectories with continuous low-thrust solar-sail trajectories. The paper focuses on maximizing the economic Net Present Value, which takes the time-cost of finance into account and therefore balances the returned resource mass and mission duration. The different propulsion methods are compared in terms of maximum economic return and sets of attainable target asteroids. Results for transporting resources to geostationary orbit show that the orbital parameter hyperspace of suitable target asteroids is considerably larger for solar sails, allowing for more flexibility in selecting potential target asteroids. Also, results show that the Net Present Value that can be realized is larger when employing solar sailing instead of chemical propulsion. In addition, it is demonstrated that a higher Net Present Value can be realized when transporting volatiles to the Lunar Gateway instead of geostationary orbit. The paper provides one more step towards making commercial asteroid mining an economically viable reality by integrating trajectory design, propulsion technology and economic modelling.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Ceriotti, Dr Matteo and Vergaaij, Miss Merel and McInnes, Professor Colin
Authors: Vergaaij, M., McInnes, C. R., and Ceriotti, M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Systems Power and Energy
Journal Name:Advances in Space Research
ISSN (Online):1879-1948
Published Online:20 June 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 COSPAR
First Published:First published in Advances in Space Research 67(9):3045-3058
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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