The chemical composition as well as the mining process can be done by employing laser-based techniques. The methodology proposed here is by the use of Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy. Spectroscopy instrument will ablate surface coatings from materials and measure the elemental composition of underlying rocks and soils at distances from 1 up to 10 m. The purpose is to develop an analytical methodology enabling identification and quantitative analysis of geological materials. The proposed idea is extended from analysis and mining of ores to that of asteroids. Asteroids are a major source of rare metals and minerals, in fact they are considered to be an alternate hub of resources adhering to the fast depletion rate of earth’s resources.
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Our solar system comprises millions of asteroids located far off from earth in the asteroid belt located between mars and Jupiter. However, some of the asteroids have orbits that bring them near the earth. These asteroids are collectively known as Near Earth Objects(NEOs). While any asteroid can be mined for its ores which may contain many rare metals such as Titanium, Osmium, Niobium, Zirconium, Tantalum etc. NEOs will be the most economical to mining given their close proximity. The metallic asteroids may contain common earth metal ores such as iron, copper maybe even gold. Asteroids are classified or “stony” or “iron”. The iron class asteroids contain the most valuable metallic sources from a mining perspective.
Laser drilling of subterranean formations is accomplished efficiently by a collimated laser beam directed into the earth formation and transverse the laser beam into earth formation with a suitable reflector. The present invention deals with bore hole being highly pressurised with gas so that beam penetrates from drilling operations into fissures. This technique is extended to asteroids by the use of electromagnetic launcher (EML). The EMLs considered are: 1. railgun 2. reversible helical EML (R-HEML). ( also used as industrial shock and vibration tester).
The reversibility of the R-HEML along with its shuttle armaturemakes it ideal for the applications proposed here. The R-HEML’s shuttle-armature is fitted with a bucket andfilled with asteroid material and launched from the asteroidsurface at high velocity. The bucket is reloaded and the process repeated. The steady ejection of asteroid material can also be used a source of thrust to change an asteroid’s Earth-crossing trajectory if needed. The power ratings involved are 100 kW–1 MW electrical powerideally suited for medium sized asteroids. The supply is a nuclear reactor based and it is the primary power source for thisEML-based application because of its high power density andruggedness. The operating parameters of the R-HEML and railgun launchers needed for a 1-MW EML thruster used as an asteroid mining and deflection system. Space-based nuclear reactors are improved versions of ground-based nuclear reactor designs. The reactors are heat sources provided to drive different types of direct energy converters. Nuclear reactors development for rocket propulsion and space-based electrical power sources in the 1960s was first proposed by the US. The reactors used for propulsion and electrical power are almost identical but operate in different modes. A pulsed reactor is used to produce thrust and continuous reactor is used to produce electrical power.
The mining equipment is integrated as a single satellite with the laser technique and this can be flown into space using a suitable launch vehicle. Once the satellite is in the orbit where the asteroids are present, it is remotely guided from the space center and the mining is done on the selected asteroid as directed from the center. The scope of the mining using lasers and the mining on the asteroids is very helpful in the acquisition of the resources that can be used in various fields of technological development.
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