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Thread: Asteroid mining

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    If I weren't a member of Cosmoquest, I probably would not know what helium-3 was used for. It goes to show that this forum does have a useful role.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I assume that's just a plan on somebody's wish list. The idea that India could solve its energy problems by mining helium 3 on the moon is, shall we say, far-fetched. Helium 3 is used in fusion reactors, and we don't as of now have working fusion reactors. So even if they can manage to mine, an enormous challenge in itself, they won't have anything to do with the helium until somebody develops a working reactor...
    Just saw this article that says NASA is investing into research for a fusion reaction space engine.

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/pr...65&filter=1639

    Selected proposals will support the development of technologies in the areas of aeronautics, science, human exploration and operations, and space technology. A sampling of proposals demonstrates the breadth of research and development these awards will fund, including:

    High temperature superconducting coils for a future fusion reaction space engine. These coils are needed for the magnetic field that allows the engine to operate safely. Nuclear fusion reactions are what power our sun and other stars, and an engine based on this technology would revolutionize space flight.

  3. #33
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    selvaarchi,

    That is not fake news. It is bad journalism.

    I knew it was nonsense because it makes no sense for India to do so in light of their ambitious and rational space program.

    Helium schmeelium.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I would be a bit more charitable. It seems to be a case of a reporter misunderstanding and getting carried away, and the editors doing a bad job of verifying. The Mint is a serious business newspaper, with ties to the WSJ, so I don't think they would deliberately make up news. To be honest I picked up the problem basically because of discussions on this forum.
    I'd be less. Media outlets have dumped science and technology reporters with enthusiasm, not even attempting to call on local STEM professionals for advice.
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  5. #35
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    China is also interested in mining asteroids.

    http://www.ecns.cn/2017/05-09/256557.shtml

    Chinese scientists will look at ways to harvest resources on asteroids and how to use these so-called minor planets as bases for interstellar journeys, according to a senior space expert.

    Ye Peijian, a leading specialist in deep-space exploration at the China Academy of Space Technology, told an asteroid exploration forum in Beijing on Monday that more than 900 asteroids fly past Earth each year and many of them have rich resources of precious metals such as platinum, rhodium and iridium.

    "In the near future, we will study ways to send robots or astronauts to mine suitable asteroids and transport the resources back to Earth. In the long term, we will consider using resources from asteroids to build facilities in space or to provide materials to support interstellar travel," he said.

    "In addition, some asteroids can be used as bases for interstellar exploration. We can land an unmanned probe on it, and the probe will travel with the asteroid to deep space. When it reaches a certain point, we will activate the probe, which will leave the asteroid to execute its scientific mission," Ye said. "This will tremendously reduce the amount of fuel a probe needs to carry and extend its life span as well as its flight range."

    He said that Chinese scientists and engineers must develop a number of technologies and special equipment to fulfill an asteroid expedition, including a large-thrust electric propulsion system, long-endurance power technology, a satellite-based navigation system and sampling devices.

    Ye told China Daily in March that China plans to conduct at least one asteroid exploration mission between 2020 and 2025. He said the detailed schedule and the target asteroid have yet to be determined.

  6. #36
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    1st time I have read of NASA's HERA mission. HERA stands for Human Exploration Research Analog. It is conducted in a 3 story habitat at the Johnson Space Center. Crew who occupy the habitat are simulated for a stay on an asteroid. The next one is a 45 days stay, Here is the story of one of the participants.

    http://www.planetary.org/blogs/guest...ion-start.html

    I have always wanted to be an astronaut, even though I have always understood that the chances of that happening were very small. I have applied a few times, without success—but even getting the rejection letters was sort of fun!

    Last year, on a Facebook group I belong to called "Astronaut Hopefuls," a couple posters said they had just finished a mission in HERA, the Human Exploration Research Analog. HERA is a three-story, closed habitat at NASA's Johnson Space Center used to simulate long-duration human spaceflight missions. During these simulations, scientists study crewmembers' physical and behavioral health, and observe how they live and work in isolation.

    The Facebook posts encouraged others to apply, so I sent in my resume the very next day—not figuring I had even a remote chance. But a few weeks later, a nurse from NASA called to ask if I was still interested! *

  7. #37
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    With the USA proposing to drop their ARM mission, China is proposing to do something similar.

    http://m.scmp.com/news/china/policie...#comments-open

    "A senior government space scientist said China was considering mounting a mission to “capture” an asteroid and try to fire it into the moon’s orbit within a decade, state media reported.

    The ultimate aim would be to mine the asteroid for metal and minerals, or use it as the base for a space station.

    Ye Peijian, chief commander and designer of China’s lunar exploration programme, said at a meeting of space authorities in Beijing this week that the nation’s first batch of asteroid exploration spacecraft would probably be launched in about 2020, according to state media reports."

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  8. #38
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    That's good. Don't replicate things--go and do something no one else is doing.

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    I think the people who think asteroid mining is the way to a Glorious FutureTM should also remember a few things: probably one of the most valuable industrial elements is silicon, and there's quite a bit of it. For many structure, the future will involve composites, which are largely organic chemicals: aluminum, titanium, magnesium, and their alloying agents won't be incredibly valuable. Over 80% of iron and steel is recycled now; many other metals are also heavily recycled, some close to 100%.

    I think a fairly common, but by no means universal, flaw in many of the writings about how asteroid mining will solve everything neglect history. Into the 19th Century all large ships were built of wood, including 300 ft ships of several thousand tons capacity. They don't do that any more.

    Not to be hyper-critical, but there does seem to be a significant number of people here who are skeptical of everything except asteroid mining and commercially-driven space colonization. One thing that frequently doesn't seem to engage their skepticism is why a corporation would spend tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to do anything which may not have a return for many decades, especially when their are shorter-term alternatives that can give the same return.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2017-May-13 at 02:50 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I think the people who think asteroid mining is the way to a Glorious FutureTM should also remember a few things: probably one of the most valuable industrial elements is silicon, and there's quite a bit of it. For many structure, the future will involve composites, which are largely organic chemicals: aluminum, titanium, magnesium, and their alloying agents won't be incredibly valuable. Over 80% of iron and steel is recycled now; many other metals are also heavily recycled, some close to 100%.

    I think a fairly common, but by no means universal, flaw in many of the writings about how asteroid mining will solve everything neglect history. Into the 19th Century all large ships were built of wood, including 300 ft ships of several thousand tons capacity. They don't do that any more.

    Not to be hyper-critical, but there does seem to be a significant number of people here who are skeptical of everything except asteroid mining and commercially-driven space colonization. One thing that frequently doesn't seem to engage their skepticism is why a corporation would spend tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to do anything which may not have a return for many decades, especially when their are shorter-term alternatives that can give the same return.

    Hello SwampYankee,

    I agree with many of your points. Indeed, the Earth's resources and foreseeable technology should support many more billions of humans.

    You harken to history. In the early 20th century the more pragmatic, possibly like yourself, pointed out that notions of intercontinental flight for the masses ignored economic and physical reality. They themselves ignored humanity's continued growing and insatiable thirst for energy which itself overcame these objections. Likewise, I believe that within a few decades mining and manufacturing in space will be a source of energy, enabling new activity in space.

    As to the actual economic return, you are also right. Currently, the only ones seriously contemplating notions of space mining are deep pocketed geeks. But they believe there is huge opportunity. I agree with them.

    I also agree with you it won't be any more glorious than anything else. So what? The caricature does not lend weight to your points or conclusions.

    Cheers,

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    I agree there is more recycling than ever before but into that equation you should add the massive increase in demand. The demand is not only coming from the increase in population but also the impact of the improvement in the living standards of a vast majority of people. An example being China where 40 years ago their demand for raw materials was small to today where they have overtaken the USA in the demand for it. India is now in the early stages of upping their demand as government policies help more people move from poverty to middle class status.

    China does not see space mining as something they will be able to do in the next few years. As mentioned in the article "Ye estimated it could take a further four decades before China had the technology and infrastructure in place to mine the asteroid."

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  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I think the people who think asteroid mining is the way to a Glorious FutureTM should also remember a few things: probably one of the most valuable industrial elements is silicon, and there's quite a bit of it. For many structure, the future will involve composites, which are largely organic chemicals: aluminum, titanium, magnesium, and their alloying agents won't be incredibly valuable. Over 80% of iron and steel is recycled now; many other metals are also heavily recycled, some close to 100%.
    I think there is a substantial group of people, myself included, who see space mining in the future as a way to get materials for off-earth colonization or exploration, but who do not see any potential at all for space mining as a way to provide resources on earth.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think there is a substantial group of people, myself included, who see space mining in the future as a way to get materials for off-earth colonization or exploration, but who do not see any potential at all for space mining as a way to provide resources on earth.
    That last sentence is probably the only economically sensible argument in favor of asteroid mining. Whether space colonization makes economic sense in the next couple of centuries is a separate, and very problematic, question.
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  14. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    You harken to history. In the early 20th century the more pragmatic, possibly like yourself, pointed out that notions of intercontinental flight for the masses ignored economic and physical reality. They themselves ignored humanity's continued growing and insatiable thirst for energy which itself overcame these objections. Likewise, I believe that within a few decades mining and manufacturing in space will be a source of energy, enabling new activity in space.
    People who are optimistic regarding the possibility of space colonization often bring that argument up. I think there are flaws in it, however. There is a key difference, in that actually people were living on different continents already before the advent of jet airliners. First they moved on foot or on early boats, and then sailing ships, and then gradually moved more quickly. But you might note that despite these technological advances, much of our planet remains uninhabited. There are people living on boats, but there have for hundreds if not thousands of years. Even though jet planes make it easy to get to anywhere on the globe, we have yet to have colonies in Antarctica (there are legal issues there, but even without them we likely would not), the Sahara, and most importantly, the sea bed. There are no underwater cities yet despite great resources and viable technology (after all, we have been to the bottom of the ocean even in the deepest parts). But we don't do it because it's too cold or too dry or too challenging. And outer space is just like that. It's like the Antarctic or the Sahara or the bottom of the ocean, but multiplied many times over.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    That last sentence is probably the only economically sensible argument in favor of asteroid mining. Whether space colonization makes economic sense in the next couple of centuries is a separate, and very problematic, question.
    Yes, I agree. My own view is that for the foreseeable future, space exploration or colonization will remain something that governments push as part of S&T programs.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    People who are optimistic regarding the possibility of space colonization often bring that argument up. I think there are flaws in it, however. There is a key difference, in that actually people were living on different continents already before the advent of jet airliners. First they moved on foot or on early boats, and then sailing ships, and then gradually moved more quickly. But you might note that despite these technological advances, much of our planet remains uninhabited. There are people living on boats, but there have for hundreds if not thousands of years. Even though jet planes make it easy to get to anywhere on the globe, we have yet to have colonies in Antarctica (there are legal issues there, but even without them we likely would not), the Sahara, and most importantly, the sea bed. There are no underwater cities yet despite great resources and viable technology (after all, we have been to the bottom of the ocean even in the deepest parts). But we don't do it because it's too cold or too dry or too challenging. And outer space is just like that. It's like the Antarctic or the Sahara or the bottom of the ocean, but multiplied many times over.
    Hello Jens,

    My comments are wrt to Asteroid Mining, not Space Colonization. I regret using facile historical reference but I stand by my point that humanity is ravenous for energy. I do not foresee the economic need to actually send raw material or finished products to Earth from space. Energy is different. We don't yet need it from space but it will become available and so we will indeed avail ourselves of it.

    This is my opinion. I am an enthusiast so I recognize my thoughts on space development are slanted. I invite you to challenge what I write but please don't quote me if you are addressing people who believe other stuff.

    cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    Hello SwampYankee,

    I agree with many of your points. Indeed, the Earth's resources and foreseeable technology should support many more billions of humans.

    You harken to history. In the early 20th century the more pragmatic, possibly like yourself, pointed out that notions of intercontinental flight for the masses ignored economic and physical reality. They themselves ignored humanity's continued growing and insatiable thirst for energy which itself overcame these objections. Likewise, I believe that within a few decades mining and manufacturing in space will be a source of energy, enabling new activity in space.

    As to the actual economic return, you are also right. Currently, the only ones seriously contemplating notions of space mining are deep pocketed geeks. But they believe there is huge opportunity. I agree with them.

    I also agree with you it won't be any more glorious than anything else. So what? The caricature does not lend weight to your points or conclusions.

    Cheers,
    Intercontinental flight exists because of huge government investment, on the order of hundreds of billions of now-dollars. The government investment included military aircraft technology, in WW1, and, post-war, NACA, and its equivalents in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and the USSR, aircraft engine development funded by the government in the same countries, and subsidies for air transport development and operation over decades -- these didn't end in the US until the late 1970s.
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  18. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Intercontinental flight exists because of huge government investment, on the order of hundreds of billions of now-dollars. The government investment included military aircraft technology, in WW1, and, post-war, NACA, and its equivalents in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and the USSR, aircraft engine development funded by the government in the same countries, and subsidies for air transport development and operation over decades -- these didn't end in the US until the late 1970s.
    Again, historical reference is a poor choice. I wanted to point out that 100 years ago it was difficult to imagine energy consumption (total and per capita) just a few decades later. I have bemoaned the unaddressed health risks related to humans in space. I point out that I do not get why people would need to import material resources to Earth in the foreseeable future. From your own posts, I believe we are in agreement. Probably also Jens. Like you, I get annoyed at those who lean on notions of glory as impetus enough for funding of space development.

    I think and hope a combination of AI, robotics and an insatiable hunger for energy will drive space development over the next few decades. I do not know this and I allow that being a space enthusiast colours my thinking. But it happens there are very rich people who have some visions of space which are not too different from mine and they are developing their notions. And I hasten to add here I love SpaceX but I think nobody but the most adventure seeking will ever live on Mars. And I like Planetary Resources but it will be cheaper to get resources from Earth for a long while. But their efforts are all good.

    cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    I do not get why people would need to import material resources to Earth in the foreseeable future.
    There are some material resources which are in extremely short supply and are considered to be of "strategic importance." Those elements called "rare earths" are an example. They're critical to modern semiconductor electronics. Having additional sources for them would be very helpful, although, perhaps, disruptive to those mining industries which currently control access to them.
    Selden

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    Quote Originally Posted by selden View Post
    There are some material resources which are in extremely short supply and are considered to be of "strategic importance." Those elements called "rare earths" are an example. They're critical to modern semiconductor electronics.
    Actually, though they are called rare earths, they are not rare in an absolute sense. The rarity comes from the fact that it's difficult and thus uneconomical to mine them. So asteroid mining would only make sense if it were more economic than mining them on earth, but it is not.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    Again, historical reference is a poor choice. I wanted to point out that 100 years ago it was difficult to imagine energy consumption (total and per capita) just a few decades later. I have bemoaned the unaddressed health risks related to humans in space. I point out that I do not get why people would need to import material resources to Earth in the foreseeable future. From your own posts, I believe we are in agreement. Probably also Jens. Like you, I get annoyed at those who lean on notions of glory as impetus enough for funding of space development.

    I think and hope a combination of AI, robotics and an insatiable hunger for energy will drive space development over the next few decades. I do not know this and I allow that being a space enthusiast colours my thinking. But it happens there are very rich people who have some visions of space which are not too different from mine and they are developing their notions. And I hasten to add here I love SpaceX but I think nobody but the most adventure seeking will ever live on Mars. And I like Planetary Resources but it will be cheaper to get resources from Earth for a long while. But their efforts are all good.

    cheers
    In my opinion, the only likely economic value for resource exploitation in space is if there is a viable space economy already in existence, possibly because of LEO tourism and manned scientfic facilities in cislunar space. I don't think that going to the belt or wherever for whatever will-o-the-wisp resource would be a viable business plan.
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  23. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Actually, though they are called rare earths, they are not rare in an absolute sense. The rarity comes from the fact that it's difficult and thus uneconomical to mine them. So asteroid mining would only make sense if it were more economic than mining them on earth, but it is not.
    The main issue with rare earths is rarity of ores that concentrate them, and I don't know if that's likely to be different in any extraterrestrial sources. Platinum group metals, on the other hand, might actually be profitable to import to Earth. Not on their own, but a possible side source of revenue.

    But fundamentally, economic activity does not require transporting physical goods back to Earth. The difficulty of transportation to and from Earth is a limiting factor on Earth's economic growth, but for the space based economy, it's just an obstacle to getting things started. (It is, admittedly, a quite effective obstacle.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    The B612 is opening up a bit:
    Fun bit of trivia: the B612 Foundation is named after the tiny asteroid that was the home of the eponymous character in The Little Prince.

    Littleprince.JPG
    Conserve energy. Commute with the Hamiltonian.

  25. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    If I weren't a member of Cosmoquest, I probably would not know what helium-3 was used for. It goes to show that this forum does have a useful role.
    Right now, it's not used for much.
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  26. #56
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    Though many in this forum are pessimistic on the near future of space mining, there is one American company that see a bright future in it. The first resource they are targeting is water for use as drinking water, cosmic ray protection or rocket fuel. That company is Planetary Resources. Read what they are up to.

    http://www.asiaminer.com/features/87...l#.WYK6NmKGPIW

    Throughout the ages, mining has faced and met the challenges thrown up by new frontiers that have been necessary to exploit due to decreasing resources. With deep-sea mining of oil and gas commonplace and exploitation of seabed mineral resources imminent, the next frontier is space.

    The Moon and Mars might seem the obvious choices but an easier option is the asteroids where there is no gravity, and this is the goal of Planetary Resources, whose founder and CEO Chris Lewicki spoke to The ASIA Miner’s editor John Miller.

    AS mining of resources gets more difficult, riskier and expensive, forward thinking companies like Planetary Resources are looking further afield – beyond the bottom of the ocean and the far reaches of Antarctica, into space.

    It’s not that Planetary Resources only wants to mine minerals such as platinum or nickel and bring them back to Earth, although this is possible and becoming increasingly feasible, it wants to mine the most essential ingredient to the sustaining of life – water.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Though many in this forum are pessimistic on the near future of space mining, there is one American company that see a bright future in it. The first resource they are targeting is water for use as drinking water, cosmic ray protection or rocket fuel. That company is Planetary Resources. Read what they are up to.
    I think that the idea of mining water from asteroids for use in space colonies is a good idea. The idea of mining platinum or nickel, however, seems a bit farfetched. It's not that it's lacking on the earth, just that it's getting harder and harder to mine it. That means it will only become economical to mine it from asteroids if it ends up being cheaper to do it that way, which seems a bit dreamy. Plus, scientists are trying to develop devices that do not use precious metals, so for example alternative catalytic converters.
    As above, so below

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    Psyche may have both.

    This is where the concept of wet stage station modules come to the fore.

    This is what I would like to see:

    Some SLS cores with no payload being placed in orbit.

    Musk's reduced ITS reminds me of a shuttle replacement:
    https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/in...298#msg1712298

    At least those artist conceptions.

    The ITS returns the SLS engine block's RS-25 engines.

    A payload-free BFR is placed in orbit. The SLS tanks ring the BFR and are filled with LOX--the GOX is released into the forward oxygen tanks in each SLS core.

    The BFR is filled full of kerosene over many ITS tanker flights.

    A very large mining payload is docked to this--now full.

    The complex has lots of internal volume, and will store water into the now exhausted tanka.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think that the idea of mining water from asteroids for use in space colonies is a good idea. The idea of mining platinum or nickel, however, seems a bit farfetched. It's not that it's lacking on the earth, just that it's getting harder and harder to mine it. That means it will only become economical to mine it from asteroids if it ends up being cheaper to do it that way, which seems a bit dreamy. Plus, scientists are trying to develop devices that do not use precious metals, so for example alternative catalytic converters.
    You don't need to pick just one. If you're mining volatiles for propellant and orbital chemical industry and metals for orbital construction, transporting precious metal byproducts back to Earth is going to be relatively inexpensive and could be a profitable side business, even if it'd never support the mining activities on its own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    Psyche may have both.

    This is where the concept of wet stage station modules come to the fore.

    This is what I would like to see:

    Some SLS cores with no payload being placed in orbit.

    Musk's reduced ITS reminds me of a shuttle replacement:
    https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/in...298#msg1712298

    At least those artist conceptions.

    The ITS returns the SLS engine block's RS-25 engines.

    A payload-free BFR is placed in orbit. The SLS tanks ring the BFR and are filled with LOX--the GOX is released into the forward oxygen tanks in each SLS core.

    The BFR is filled full of kerosene over many ITS tanker flights.

    A very large mining payload is docked to this--now full.

    The complex has lots of internal volume, and will store water into the now exhausted tanka.
    SLS is too expensive to fly, and incapable of flying more than every other year. NASA doesn't have missions for it, and no commercial companies are even a little bit interested in it, since just paying for a couple launches would fund development of a better system. Such as the SpaceX BFR. If you've got a reusable methalox launch system using Raptor engines that gives payload to orbit hundreds of times cheaper...why would you ever involve the SLS? Why would you waste your time and energy trying? Whavever you can do with the SLS, you can do more without it.

    Beyond that...the BFR doesn't use kerosene. The whole ITS system is methalox. I'm not sure what your goal is in putting gaseous O2 in SLS tanks, you'd be better off dumping both the O2 and the tanks, but realistically a complete ITS is going to have equipment for keeping both oxygen and methane liquid. As for water, the SLS tanks would be ridiculously overbuilt and limited in volume, not to mention appallingly expensive. The vapor pressure of water at 0 C is only 600 Pa, you need little more than a big plastic bag to hold it. Maybe multiple bags that get loaded into a frame with heat transfer loops, covered with insulating blankets, and frozen for transport to eliminate sloshing and minimize loss to any leaks.

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