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Old 08-06-2019, 09:14 PM
Sam Stone is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 28,170
Mining in space may turn out to be much easier than mining on the Earth, once we are comfortable with working in space.

For example, if 16 Psyche is actually a planetary core, it may already be differentiated. in other words, the heaviest stuff is at the center.

For smaller metal-iron asteroids, one interesting technique I've heard of is to build an electromagnetic induction coil around it, then spin it. this induces eddy currents in the metal which then heats up and melts. The other thing that happens is that it will start to spin with the coil. When it gets up to coil speed, you brake the coil with retro rockets or whatever, inducing current again. Get the whole thing to melt while spinning, and centripetal acceleration will cause the heaviest, most valuable stuff to move to the surface where it can then be siphoned off.

You could also simply spot heat sections of asteroid with large solar concentrators, then simply siphon off the vapour and let it solidify.

There are many other unique ways of extracting valuable materials from asteroids. None of them have been proven out, and I'm sure there are a million devils living in the details. There's no gravity for sure, which is good and bad. So you tailor your process to take advantage of the good.

You also have a vacuum to work in, which can be a big help. We might even be able to use sputtering and directly lift the materials off the asteroid and deposit it on a substrate. Who knows? We won't know the right techniques until we have assayed candidates and testing out theoretical solutions.

But if there is enough money to be made, we will figure it out.

Last edited by Sam Stone; 08-06-2019 at 09:16 PM.