Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

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Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:33 pm UTC

http://www.space.com/19368-asteroid-min ... tries.html
"The public will participate in FireFly and DragonFly missions via live feeds from Mission Control, online courses in asteroid mining sponsored by corporate marketers and other innovative ways to open the doors wide," Gump said. "The Google Lunar X Prize, Unilever and Red Bull each are spending tens of millions of dollars on space sponsorships, so the opportunity to sponsor a FireFly expedition into deep space will be enticing."

Deep Space's construction activities will be aided by a patent-pending 3D printer called the MicroGravity Foundry, officials said.

"The MicroGravity Foundry is the first 3D printer that creates high-density, high-strength metal components even in zero gravity," company co-founder and MicroGravity Foundry inventor Stephen Covey said in a statement. "Other metal 3D printers sinter powdered metal, which requires a gravity field and leaves a porous structure, or they use low-melting point metals with less strength."

Great name choice. And they are made my 3D printers. And we will be able to watch live feeds from them. Either they are making promises they cannot keep, or we are only three years from the future. I vote future.

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Jan 22, 2013 9:41 pm UTC

The only thing better than a 3D Printer is a SPACE LASER 3D Printer.

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Bez » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:15 pm UTC

I really hope it works out. There's an incredible mineral wealth out there, it'd be nice to tap into it.

Also, I want to take the space elevator up into orbit before hopping over to Mars for a couple of weeks. Anything that brings us closer to that is fine by me.

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Jofur » Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:30 pm UTC

This makes me so happy. Even if DSI or Planetary resources don't do it in the next years, it's amazing we're talking about actually doing it. I mean before it was more of a "wouldn't it be cool if they..." kind of thing, but now? Now they are seriously working out the logistics and processes involved.

Even if it doesn't happen in the next ten years, I'm sure it will happen in our lifetimes, buddy!
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby wumpus » Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:35 pm UTC

Just out of curiosity, what are they going to do with the the asteroid/ore/metal once they get a hold of it?

Most obvious means would be to fire it at Earth onto an area they have claim to. A more advanced method might be to just collect them in orbit, to be used for shielding at first and later as raw materials. I can't see anybody wanting to buy "ore in space" anytime soon.

My guess is that they are a bunch of geeks who want their obscenely expensive hobby funded. I wouldn't be surprised if there are enough other geeks sufficiently eager to be a part of it to get them at least a little farther (ant fart propulsion goes a long way, don't be too surprised if they drag a number of choice asteroids into some Lagrange points). I wouldn't quite call this "the future", though.

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Jofur » Mon Feb 25, 2013 8:08 pm UTC

wumpus wrote:Just out of curiosity, what are they going to do with the the asteroid/ore/metal once they get a hold of it?

Most obvious means would be to fire it at Earth onto an area they have claim to. A more advanced method might be to just collect them in orbit, to be used for shielding at first and later as raw materials. I can't see anybody wanting to buy "ore in space" anytime soon.

My guess is that they are a bunch of geeks who want their obscenely expensive hobby funded. I wouldn't be surprised if there are enough other geeks sufficiently eager to be a part of it to get them at least a little farther (ant fart propulsion goes a long way, don't be too surprised if they drag a number of choice asteroids into some Lagrange points). I wouldn't quite call this "the future", though.


Well, in the future they want to mine and manufacture in space. They also will be able to collect water from these asteroids. Water is very useful as it is, and the oxygen and hydrogen that make are very good rocket fuels. This could be used to refuel satellites that would otherwise plummet when they run out of fuel.
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Iulus Cofield » Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:06 am UTC

Having the first space based on-demand manufacturing business would be a very advantageous business position. You wanna put up a satellite? Why bother when we can build one for you in orbit and just kick it out the airlock! Wanna outfit an expedition to Mars? You send up the food and people, we'll take care of the rest! Only 100,000 Quatloos! Call now!

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby DaBigCheez » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:37 pm UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:You wanna put up a satellite? Why bother when we can build one for you in orbit and just kick it out the airlock!

While the cost involved would probably be (quite literally) astronomical, let me put it this way:

I help design satellites for a living. Specifically, I analyze the structure, not any of the electronics on it.

Easily 90% of my job is done about three minutes after the rocket lifts off. (Well, it's done months or years beforehand, but it stops being relevant anymore after that.) They are not the gentlest ride which mankind has ever come up with.

If you didn't have to design a satellite to survive launch loads (reaching in some cases into the tens of G's, along with various shock loads, acoustic loads, and all kinds of nastiness, not to mention deploying everything afterwards after you've kept it tightly bunched-up to fit into the satellite and survive the relevant loads) and instead just let it gently float off into space (meaning the highest load you'd ever see would be the small fraction of 1G from orbit-raising), you could cut out a *lot* of the structure - not to mention the savings from, oh, not having to get that mass into orbit in the first place. You could make way, *way* more efficient designs than we're using today if you didn't have to deal with launch.

And that's even before we get into possibilities like mid-orbit refuel/repair (difficult problems, but easier if you don't have to send up a rocket for each tiny piece you want to use. With a space-based 3D printer, making one-off replacement parts gets a lot less burdensome...)
Last edited by DaBigCheez on Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:56 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Jofur » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:41 pm UTC

" The MicroGravity Foundry is a 3D printer that uses lasers to draw patterns in a nickel-charged gas medium, causing the nickel to be deposited in precise patterns."

I sure hope we can do that!
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Diadem » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:43 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:The only thing better than a 3D Printer is a SPACE LASER 3D Printer.

Is that a 3D laser printer in space, or a 3D printer that prints space lasers?

It could also be a 3D laser printer that prints space, I suppose, but that is significantly less cool.
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Jofur » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:37 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:
Heisenberg wrote:The only thing better than a 3D Printer is a SPACE LASER 3D Printer.

Is that a 3D laser printer in space, or a 3D printer that prints space lasers?

It could also be a 3D laser printer that prints space, I suppose, but that is significantly less cool.


Why not have a 3d space laser printer in space? :mrgreen:
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby wumpus » Wed Feb 27, 2013 5:07 pm UTC

Jofur wrote:
wumpus wrote:Just out of curiosity, what are they going to do with the the asteroid/ore/metal once they get a hold of it?

Most obvious means would be to fire it at Earth onto an area they have claim to. A more advanced method might be to just collect them in orbit, to be used for shielding at first and later as raw materials. I can't see anybody wanting to buy "ore in space" anytime soon.

My guess is that they are a bunch of geeks who want their obscenely expensive hobby funded. I wouldn't be surprised if there are enough other geeks sufficiently eager to be a part of it to get them at least a little farther (ant fart propulsion goes a long way, don't be too surprised if they drag a number of choice asteroids into some Lagrange points). I wouldn't quite call this "the future", though.


Well, in the future they want to mine and manufacture in space. They also will be able to collect water from these asteroids. Water is very useful as it is, and the oxygen and hydrogen that make are very good rocket fuels. This could be used to refuel satellites that would otherwise plummet when they run out of fuel.


My point was that if they are trying to run a business, then they have to keep burning venture capital and other funding sources (and guys like the dabigcheez are unlikely to work cheap) until they can start selling (leasing, selling services provided by, etc) equipment made by 3d printers using stocks mined in space. There is a reason that venture capital want a mind boggling return on successful start ups, because the costs of paying salaries for that long is huge and the chance of payoff is so small. My guess is that there is no way that the chance of this company having any advantage against a group with inside connections to spaceX or orbital jumping in after our heroes start to make money (but not cover sunk costs), meaning no financial reason to be the enthusiasts who invest in them.

Dropping meteors on specific places on the Earth might work if they found the right asteroids. Think about the Cryptonomicon and the idea of "making license plates"

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:47 am UTC

wumpus wrote:Just out of curiosity, what are they going to do with the the asteroid/ore/metal once they get a hold of it?

Most obvious means would be to fire it at Earth onto an area they have claim to. A more advanced method might be to just collect them in orbit, to be used for shielding at first and later as raw materials. I can't see anybody wanting to buy "ore in space" anytime soon.

My guess is that they are a bunch of geeks who want their obscenely expensive hobby funded. I wouldn't be surprised if there are enough other geeks sufficiently eager to be a part of it to get them at least a little farther (ant fart propulsion goes a long way, don't be too surprised if they drag a number of choice asteroids into some Lagrange points). I wouldn't quite call this "the future", though.


Space exploration as a hobby is indeed the future. Even if your theory is correct, it's still pretty awesome.

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Fire Brns » Thu Feb 28, 2013 4:25 am UTC

wumpus wrote:Just out of curiosity, what are they going to do with the the asteroid/ore/metal once they get a hold of it?

Most obvious means would be to fire it at Earth onto an area they have claim to. A more advanced method might be to just collect them in orbit, to be used for shielding at first and later as raw materials. I can't see anybody wanting to buy "ore in space" anytime soon.

My guess is that they are a bunch of geeks who want their obscenely expensive hobby funded. I wouldn't be surprised if there are enough other geeks sufficiently eager to be a part of it to get them at least a little farther (ant fart propulsion goes a long way, don't be too surprised if they drag a number of choice asteroids into some Lagrange points). I wouldn't quite call this "the future", though.
The "future" is hypothetically orbital fabrication for extra-planetary colonization. The most important thing is establishing a foothold in space, our current infrastructure could hardly be called a foothold as it is mostly scientific equipment and communication satellites.

We get some factories set up far enough up or even on the moon and all we have to worry about getting into orbit is organic stuffs like people.
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby wumpus » Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:28 pm UTC

In other words we can only hope that they will do some remotely appropriate basic research but can in no way be expected to do any type of asteroid mining. So of course they should loudly proclaim they are going to do asteroid mining. Got it.

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby ucim » Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:38 pm UTC

wumpus wrote:Dropping meteors on specific places on the Earth might work if they found the right asteroids.
Can you guarantee they won't miss? Accidentally, or on purpose?

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby johnny_7713 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:51 pm UTC

DaBigCheez wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:You wanna put up a satellite? Why bother when we can build one for you in orbit and just kick it out the airlock!

While the cost involved would probably be (quite literally) astronomical, let me put it this way:

I help design satellites for a living. Specifically, I analyze the structure, not any of the electronics on it.

Easily 90% of my job is done about three minutes after the rocket lifts off. (Well, it's done months or years beforehand, but it stops being relevant anymore after that.) They are not the gentlest ride which mankind has ever come up with.

If you didn't have to design a satellite to survive launch loads (reaching in some cases into the tens of G's, along with various shock loads, acoustic loads, and all kinds of nastiness, not to mention deploying everything afterwards after you've kept it tightly bunched-up to fit into the satellite and survive the relevant loads) and instead just let it gently float off into space (meaning the highest load you'd ever see would be the small fraction of 1G from orbit-raising), you could cut out a *lot* of the structure - not to mention the savings from, oh, not having to get that mass into orbit in the first place. You could make way, *way* more efficient designs than we're using today if you didn't have to deal with launch.

And that's even before we get into possibilities like mid-orbit refuel/repair (difficult problems, but easier if you don't have to send up a rocket for each tiny piece you want to use. With a space-based 3D printer, making one-off replacement parts gets a lot less burdensome...)


I'm pretty sure that printing most of the components required for a satellite is still quite a bit in the future, let alone printing them all together in an integrated system. Printing a satellite structural back-bone? Yes. Printing a functional solar panel, a high resolution CCD camera and lens, or the circuitry required for satellite telephony? Not so much.

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby DaBigCheez » Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:30 pm UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:
DaBigCheez wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:You wanna put up a satellite? Why bother when we can build one for you in orbit and just kick it out the airlock!

While the cost involved would probably be (quite literally) astronomical, let me put it this way:

I help design satellites for a living. Specifically, I analyze the structure, not any of the electronics on it.

Easily 90% of my job is done about three minutes after the rocket lifts off. (Well, it's done months or years beforehand, but it stops being relevant anymore after that.) They are not the gentlest ride which mankind has ever come up with.

If you didn't have to design a satellite to survive launch loads (reaching in some cases into the tens of G's, along with various shock loads, acoustic loads, and all kinds of nastiness, not to mention deploying everything afterwards after you've kept it tightly bunched-up to fit into the satellite and survive the relevant loads) and instead just let it gently float off into space (meaning the highest load you'd ever see would be the small fraction of 1G from orbit-raising), you could cut out a *lot* of the structure - not to mention the savings from, oh, not having to get that mass into orbit in the first place. You could make way, *way* more efficient designs than we're using today if you didn't have to deal with launch.

And that's even before we get into possibilities like mid-orbit refuel/repair (difficult problems, but easier if you don't have to send up a rocket for each tiny piece you want to use. With a space-based 3D printer, making one-off replacement parts gets a lot less burdensome...)


I'm pretty sure that printing most of the components required for a satellite is still quite a bit in the future, let alone printing them all together in an integrated system. Printing a satellite structural back-bone? Yes. Printing a functional solar panel, a high resolution CCD camera and lens, or the circuitry required for satellite telephony? Not so much.

Oh, absolutely. But I'm a structural guy, so that's what I focus on; the electronics guys can figure out their own stuff. :P

More seriously, in-space assembly would be a lot more challenging than doing it on the shop-room floor, but still potentially doable. In theory the parts could be shipped to space separately, but the "container" to keep them protected during transit would probably wind up pretty heavy in and of itself relative to a satellite structure. This is why we need space elevators too! But even with that considered, just in-space fuel mining and refueling would let you save huge chunks of mass on your satellite - storing enough fuel for several years of operation, which is just deadweight during the launch phase, doesn't help at all when launching.
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Fire Brns » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:43 pm UTC

wumpus wrote:In other words we can only hope that they will do some remotely appropriate basic research but can in no way be expected to do any type of asteroid mining. So of course they should loudly proclaim they are going to do asteroid mining. Got it.
Not really. They are proclaiming loudly that they intend to establish an infrastructure so that asteroid mining becomes profitable.

Although I really doubt the likelihood of such an attempt actually succeeding space infrastructure needs to be done in leaps and bounds rather than a slow trickle.

Edit:I doubt it succeeding until the value of metal on Earth exceeds the cost of retrieving it from space.
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby bigglesworth » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:53 am UTC

DaBigCheez wrote:If you didn't have to design a satellite to survive launch loads
Might this still be true if you only had to design satellite parts that could survive launch? You'd get a big container of satellite parts that would then be assembled in space and attached to a structure made from space-concrete.

Maybe since you'd just be shipping parts you could ship something 10x lenses, 15x processors, 5x solar panels and then get about 5 satellites out of the deal. Might be more efficient than shipping 3 satellites up at a time.
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby DaBigCheez » Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:00 am UTC

bigglesworth wrote:
DaBigCheez wrote:If you didn't have to design a satellite to survive launch loads
Might this still be true if you only had to design satellite parts that could survive launch? You'd get a big container of satellite parts that would then be assembled in space and attached to a structure made from space-concrete.

Maybe since you'd just be shipping parts you could ship something 10x lenses, 15x processors, 5x solar panels and then get about 5 satellites out of the deal. Might be more efficient than shipping 3 satellites up at a time.

That's what I was getting at in the earlier post, yeah; a lot of it has to do with the orientation the parts have to have in order to be able to deploy once they reach space. (Being able to manufacture and attach the reflectors in space would be a huge boon, and they're ultimately not that tricky - some complicated surfaces, but no integrated-circuit precision required, and you wouldn't need as much complication in materials as for something like a solar panel.) Solar panels might be tricky to ship - you can stack them flat and tie them down, but they're still going to be pretty fragile and difficult to stow securely enough without some kind of support structure - but a fair number of electrical components could probably be just shipped up in a box and assembled in space, if you were able to get the necessary precision to do the installation there.

(I'm being purposefully vague on some of this to avoid giving out any proprietary info; I don't want to get myself or my employer into trouble, especially considering an annoying amount of stuff dealing with satellites is ITAR-controlled.)
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Game_boy » Fri Mar 01, 2013 5:04 pm UTC

It's comparable to having the first telegraph or railroad. Insanely capital expensive for the time, but once you do it you have an unimaginably profitable entrenched monopoly. It just requires very long-term investors, not irrational ones.
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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby johnny_7713 » Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:02 am UTC

Game_boy wrote:It's comparable to having the first telegraph or railroad. Insanely capital expensive for the time, but once you do it you have an unimaginably profitable entrenched monopoly. It just requires very long-term investors, not irrational ones.


The profits are not all that unimaginable though, they're roughly the current market price for the materials you are mining (assuming you don't disturb the market too much by suddenly massively increasing the supply) times the volume you're able to mine, minus the development and operating costs. Considering the development and operating costs for space flight are also massive I'd be interested too see a business plan with actual numbers. If you can launch for a $100 million (at the lower end of the scale I think), you're going to need to sell 2.5 tons of platinum (at current prices*) to cover just the cost of launching, never mind the actual building, development, or operation of the satellite.

*Per wiki, world production in 2010 was 192 tons, so I guess 2.5 extra wouldn't disrupt prices too much

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:11 am UTC

I imagine there would be a non-trivial increase in value for space mined metals, if a drastically smaller market for them.

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby fifiste » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:15 pm UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:The profits are not all that unimaginable though, they're roughly the current market price for the materials you are mining (assuming you don't disturb the market too much by suddenly massively increasing the supply) times the volume you're able to mine, minus the development and operating costs.
*Per wiki, world production in 2010 was 192 tons, so I guess 2.5 extra wouldn't disrupt prices too much


There's a difference between price of platinum on here earth and between the platinum +delivery of platinum details to earth orbit.
What I mean it might be unprofitable to mine stuff up there and chuck it down - but it might at some moment be profitable to mine stuff up there/ manufacture it to something that is in demand up there and then keep it up there. No need to specifically make profit by lobbing stuff back down here.*

I dunno what the market price for Kg of fresh water here on earth is. But cost of sending Kg of whatever into LEO is like 2K-20K $. (6K-40K $ for GTO) And so market price for water* you'd be selling there would probably be in this magnitude. So to cover your example of 100 M $ launch cost you should sell from 2,5 to 50 tonnes of water in LEO.

* A quite useful commodity. Astronauts and lab animals etc. on space stations can drink it, you can electrolyze it to oxygen for them to breathe, you can also use electrolysis products as fuel+oxidizer for maneuvering engines. Ice shouldn't be hard to mine either. The tricky part would probably be the delivery system, my own sci-fi mind imagines a mass drivers on asteroid surface which will shoot out ice parcels with tiny maneuvering engines attached, those engines can use the same water as reaction mass. You can probably use all kind of low powered propulsion up there **, like water being evaporated by sun etc. if you are delivering non-perishables, as you don't have to worry about getting out of gravity wells/air resistance and all this mess. They will take their time but they'll get there.
** disclaimer I'm not a rocket scientist :D

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Re: Asteroid mining company must be too good to be true

Postby Garm » Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:05 pm UTC

I can't figure out if these companies are hiring.
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