Section E: Space Engineering Methods
[This section is still very preliminary]
This section addresses long-term speculative development of space resources
on a large scale, i.e. "worldbuilding".
E.1 Methods of Finding Resources
E.2 Inventory of Resources
E.2.a Matter resources in the Solar System
The Gas Giants.
Planets and Satellites With Atmospheres
Larger Airless Bodies
Gas and solar wind
E.2.b Energy resources in the Solar System
[hydrogen to helium fusion energy]
[other nuclear reactions]
[stored thermal energy of sun]
[gravitational collapse energy]
[latent heat of formation - Jupiter]
[fusion energy of hydrogen]
[non-equilibrium chemistry(fossil fuels)]
[stored thermal energy]
[gravitational potential of satellites & planets vs. Sun.]
E.2.c Matter resources in the Galaxy
The mass of the Galaxy
E.2.d Energy resources in the Galaxy
E.3 Methods of Extracting Resources
Most of the visible mass in the Universe is inconveniently located in the
interior of large bodies, where it hard to get to. In fact spheres, the shape
which many large objects approximate, have the least surface area for a
given volume. In other words, the ratio of relatively inaccessible material in
the interior to accessible material on the surface is a maximum. Another
problem is that useful metals, such as Iron, tend to collect in the center
of planets, where pressures and temperatures are both very high.
To obtain sufficient raw materials for large projects, dismantling of large
bodies may be required. This can be considered mining in the limit of
mining the entire body. This section lists mining/dismantling methods
which are not covered by conventional mining processes followed by
launch using one of the methods in section D.
E.3.a Extracting Matter Resources from Sub-Planetary Bodies
E.3.b Extracting Matter Resources from Terrestrial Planets
E.3.c Extracting Matter Resources from Jovian Planets
76 Mechanical Disruption
This is the brute-force method. One approach involves directing a large
body at high speed at the planet. The other approach is to collect deuterium
and helium-3 and use them to make a really big thermonuclear device.
77 Spin-Up to Orbital Speed
This method involves increasing the already fast rotation rate of the planet
until the equator is at orbital velocity. Removal of material from the equator
to orbit becomes a simple matter. There are a number of techniques for
increasing the rotation rate:
Differential light pressure
Aerobraking momentum transfer
High speed angular momentum deposition
Gravity coupling (using subsynchronous satellites to raise tides)
This method involves reversing the way the planet formed in the first place.
Jovian planets form by collapse of a gas cloud as it radiates away energy.
Our largest planet, Jupiter, is apparently still radiating away excess heat
today, after 5 billion years. If excess solar energy is directed at a jovian
planet, it will heat up and reverse this process.
79 Scoop Mining
E.3.d Extracting Matter Resources from Stars
E.4 Uses for Resources
E.4.a Matter Resources
80 On-site fuel extraction
Description: If you don't have to bring it with you, your mass ratio
[E1] Ramohalli, K.; Ash, R.; Dowler, W.; French, J. "Some Aspects of
Space Propulsion with Extraterrestrial Resources", Journal of Spacecraft
and Rockets v 24 no 3 pp 236-44, 1987.
81 Comet consumption en-route
Description: Interstellar missions require a lot of propellant. In this
concept, several comets are intercepted by a propulsion unit that comes from
the 'mother ship'. The propulsion unit consumes part of the comet to bring
the rest of the comet up to speed, and then uses the remainder to further
accelerate the mother ship. This allows somewhat better velocities than
starting with all the fuel onboard at the start of the mission.
82 Solar Sails from FeNi Asteroid
Description: To recover large amounts of material from the asteroids,
Iron-nickel alloy can be rolled into foil, and then used to make solar sails.
If what you want to extract is steel, then it sails itself back to where
you want it. If you want some other material, you can make large amounts
of sail area fairly simply (you need the functions of a rolling mill - a way to
heat the material and a way to force it between two rollers to make thin
sheets. Steel is not as light as aluminum-magnesium alloy as a sail material,
and it is not as good a reflector, but it is readily available in large
quantities in asteroids and does not need a lot of processing to make into a
83 Structural materials
Description: A variety of structural materials can be made from local
materials in space, thus reducing the amount of material that has to be
brought from Earth. Examples include Iron-nickel from that type of
asteroid, and from meteoroid dust on the lunar surface (which only require
magnetic separation), and cast or sintered rock, using solar heating to melt
random rock into useful shapes.
E.4.b Energy Resources
84 Solar Power Stations
Description: Sunlight in space is not affected by night, clouds, or
atmospheric absorbtion. A large solar power plant can produce power, then
send it elsewhere using an efficient microwave beam. Example uses are to
deliver power to Earth from orbit, and to deliver power to a Mars lander
using the transit vehicle solar array.
84a Planet Surface
85 Atmospheric Laser
Description: Lasing medium is the atmosphere or ionosphere of a planet
E.2 Methods of Reducing Payload Mass/Volume
86 Closed Life Support
By recycling part or all of the materials used to sustain life, the amount of
stored supplies or newly delivered supplies can be reduced. If coupled with
local extraction of life support supplies, can reduce the amount of extraction
required. Water, air, and food are the principal items that can be recycled.
87 Inflatable/Erectable Structures
For launch from a planet it may be useful to collapse a structure into a small
package. Once on location it is inflated or assembled to form the finished
88 Recycling upper stages
A conventional rocket takes the final stage, along with the payload, into
orbit. By re-fueling the stage, or by converting the stage tanks and
structures to another use (such as an occupied pressurized module), some
payload weight and volume is saved.
Status: The Skylab space station was made from a converted Saturn V 3rd
stage. A number of studies have been done on re-using Space Shuttle
external tanks for other uses such as pressurized living space.
A general-purpose factory system can make a wide variety of products,
including copies of most or all of it's own parts. Then a small seed factory
can grow to a large production capacity with a high output product to intial
payload mass ratio.
(NASA Study: "Advanced Automation for Space Missions", early 1980s)
90 Nanofax Transmitter
The energy to transmit the description of an object to another star, even at an
atom by atom level, is about a million times less than the energy to
physically move the object from one star to another. Thus, after the first
probe sets up a receiving/replication station at the other star, other objects
are more efficiently scanned, transmitted, and reconstructed at the receiving
end. Using atomic scale technology (such as scanning tunneling microscopes)
it may be possible to send
people this way. The subjective time to travel at the speed of light is zero.