NASA’s Psyche Mission Has a Metal World in Its Sights

This artist’s concept depicts the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — Designed to explore a metal asteroid that could be the heart of a planet, the Psyche mission is readying for a 2022 launch. After extensive review, NASA Headquarters in Washington has approved the mission to begin the final design and fabrication phase, otherwise known as Phase C. This is when the Psyche team finalizes the system design, develops detailed plans and procedures for the spacecraft and science mission, and completes both assembly and testing of the spacecraft and its subsystems.

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University of Adelaide Researchers Working on Extracting Materials From Asteroids

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

ADELAIDE, Australia (University of Adelaide PR) — Work by a team of University of Adelaide scientists to perfect metal and mineral extraction processes is bringing the possibility of mining the wealth contained within asteroids closer to reality. But science fiction won’t become fact until asteroid mining becomes economically as well as technically viable.

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NASA Invests in Tech Concepts Aimed at Exploring Lunar Craters, Mining Asteroids

Illustration of the Skylight mission concept, a 2019 NIAC Phase III. (Credits: William Whittaker, Carnegie Mellon University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Robotically surveying lunar craters in record time and mining resources in space could help NASA establish a sustained human presence at the Moon – part of the agency’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Two mission concepts to explore these capabilities have been selected as the first-ever Phase III studies within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

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NASA Awards Research Funding for In-Situ Resource Utilization on Mars

NASA’s InSight spacecraft flipped open the lens cover on its Instrument Context Camera (ICC) on Nov. 30, 2018, and captured this view of Mars. Located below the deck of the InSight lander, the ICC has a fisheye view, creating a curved horizon. Some clumps of dust are still visible on the camera’s lens. One of the spacecraft’s footpads can be seen in the lower right corner. The seismometer’s tether box is in the upper left corner. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Although NASA has the moon clearly in its sight, the space agency continues to fund technologies that will use in-situ resources to facilitate human missions to Mars.

NASA has selected OxEon Energy and Bob Zubrin’s Pioneer Astronautics for Small Business Innovation Research Phase II (SBIR) awards for technology that would extract carbon dioxide from the martian atmosphere to produce oxygen and fuel. The contracts are worth up to $750,000 over two years.

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Bill Asks for NASA Report on Establishment of Space Resources Institute

A vision of a future Moon base that could be produced and maintained using 3D printing. (Credit: RegoLight, visualisation: Liquifer Systems Group, 2018)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A bill seeking a report on whether NASA should establish a space resources institute has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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NIAC Award: Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies

Thermal mining of ices on cold solar system bodies (Credit: George Sowers)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phae I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies
George Sowers
Colorado School of Mines

Innovation

  • Applying heat directly to frozen volatile bearing materials allows extraction of the volatile without the cost, mass and complexity of excavation.
  • Heat is applied directly to the surface in the form of redirected sunlight or subsurface via conducting rods or heaters emplaced in boreholes.
  • Vapor is captured within a dome-like tent and refrozen in cold traps for processing.

Technical Approach

  • Colorado School of Mines brings its world renowned expertise in terrestrial resource extraction to space.
  • We will explore locations throughout the solar system where Thermal Mining might be applicable.
  • We will develop a detailed mission scenario for the use of Thermal Mining for lunar water extraction.
  • We will test the effectiveness of various Thermal Mining techniques in our cryogenic vacuum chamber.

Potential & Benefits

  • Estimates for extracting water from the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon show Thermal Mining can produce industrial quantities of water (for propellant) for 60% less mass and energy than excavation.
  • Volatiles have many uses for space exploration and space commerce.
  • Propellant from lunar polar ice will lower all transportation costs beyond low Earth orbit by factors from three to seventy.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List

NIAC Award — Lunar-Polar Propellant Mining Outpost

Lunar-Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (Credit: Joel Sercel)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Lunar-Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO): Affordable Exploration and Industrialization
Joel Sercel
TransAstra Corporation

The Lunar Polar Gas-Dynamic Mining Outpost (LGMO) (see quad chart graphic) is a breakthrough mission architecture that promises to greatly reduce the cost of human exploration and industrialization of the Moon. LGMO is based on two new innovations that together solve the problem of affordable lunar polar ice mining for propellant production.

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Luxembourg & Belgium to Develop Exploration & Utilization of Space Resources

BRUSSELS (Luxembourg Space Agency PR) — Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence of the Kingdom of Belgium, and Etienne Schneider, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, signed a joint declaration at the Palais d’Egmont in Brussels on 23 January 2019 in which the two countries commit to collaborate on the development of an international framework for the exploration and utilisation of space resources.

Due to technological developments and the arrival of new players, there is growing political and commercial interest in the use and exploitation of space resources.

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ESA, Metalysis Launch ISRU Grand Challenge Worth 500,000 Euros

Lunar base made with 3D printing (Credit: ESA/Foster + Partners)

PARIS, 18 January 2019 (ESA PR) — Sign up to the Metalysis–ESA Grand Challenge worth €500 000 rewarding innovation that helps us to explore space.

As ESA and other agencies prepare to send humans back to the Moon – this time to stay – technologies that make use of materials available in space (in-situ resource utilisation) are seen as key to sustainability, and a stepping stone in humankind’s adventure to Mars and farther into the Solar System.

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NASA’s Newly Arrived OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Already Discovers Water on Asteroid

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Recently analyzed data from NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has revealed water locked inside the clays that make up its scientific target, the asteroid Bennu.

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Luxembourg Pivots Right Out of Planetary Resources’ Investment


The government of Luxembourg’s investment in asteroid miner turned block chainer Planetary Resources is over, the Luxembourg Times reports.

The Luxembourg government sold its 10% stake in US space firm Planetary Resources ahead of its takeover by blockchain venture ConsenSys.

ConsenSys announced on Wednesday it had acquired Planetary Resources through an asset-purchase transaction.

The Luxembourg government first took a stake in the company in 2016, when the Economy Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding and agreed to invest €25 million. 

The Luxembourg government has also invested in Planetary Resources’ rival, Deep Space Industries.

Planetary Resources Pivots Again: From Asteroid Mining to Block Chain

NEW YORK (ConsenSys PR) — Blockchain venture production studio ConsenSys, Inc. has acquired the pioneering space company Planetary Resources, Inc. through an asset-purchase transaction. Planetary Resources’ President & CEO Chris Lewicki and General Counsel Brian Israel have joined ConsenSys in connection with the acquisition.
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Luxembourg, Poland Sign MOU on Space Cooperation

LUXEMBOURG CITY (Luxembourg Government PR) — The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, represented by the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy, Étienne Schneider, and the Republic of Poland, represented by the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology, Jadwiga Emilewicz, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to start bilateral cooperation on space activities with particular focus on the exploration and utilization of space resources. The five-year MoU covers the exchange of information and expertise in the areas of space technologies, policy, law and regulation.

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