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Is asteroid mining about to begin?

By

April 19, 2012

Planetary Resources may be looking to start mining asteroids (Image: NASA)

Planetary Resources may be looking to start mining asteroids (Image: NASA)

Planetary Resources, a new player in the commercial space industry, is backed by a host of tech and aerospace luminaries with an integrated personal net worth on the far side of US$30 billion. A press release from the company hints that it will look to establish asteroid mining operations in space.

The President and Chief Engineer of the new company is Chris Lewicki, president of Arkyd Astronautics and former NASA Phoenix Mars Lander mission manager. A press release states, "the company will overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of natural resources."

Various Internet sources speculate, based on this statement, the name of the company, and the past interests of some of the officers and investors, that Planetary Resources will be aiming toward asteroid mining, probably with a strong robotic slant. Some types of asteroids are profligate ores of the noble metals, such as gold, platinum, iridium, and rhodium, and thus ripe for exploitation.

The investors and advisers associated with Planetary Resources include:
  • Larry Page - Google
  • Eric Schmidt - Google
  • K. Ram Shriram - Google
  • Peter Diamandis - X-Prize Foundation - Space Adventures - Singularity University
  • Eric Anderson - Space Adventures
  • James Cameron - Film maker and explorer
  • Charles Simonyi - Intentional Software and two-time space tourist
  • H. Ross Perot, Jr. - Perot Systems and pilot of first round-the-earth helicopter flight
  • Tom Jones - Former NASA Astronaut and planetary scientist

All will be revealed on Tuesday, April 24, 2012, when Planetary Resources will hold an inaugural press conference and presentations. Gizmag will cover this press conference and publish an extended article in which their plans and goals will be laid out.

Source: Planetary Resources via Technology Review

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer.   All articles by Brian Dodson
74 Comments

there is no ore valuable enough to make this profitable..

Michael Mantion
19th April, 2012 @ 06:11 pm PDT

This is the most utilitarian reason for going to space, and probably the best motivation for getting space exploration moving along pretty quickly. Lets hope it's cost effective enough to actually work.

Alex Lekander
19th April, 2012 @ 06:22 pm PDT

@Michael That's what people once thought about commercial flight

Walter Costescu
19th April, 2012 @ 06:58 pm PDT

"there is no ore valuable enough to make this profitable.. " Then you should contact these people who are some of the richest and smartest in the world and let them know.

Paul Smith
19th April, 2012 @ 07:29 pm PDT

re; Michael Mantion

If we assume $10000 per kg cost to orbit and a 1500kg craft it will cost $15000000 to put it into space. A 747-8F: costs US$333.5 million the space craft will cost less. So lets assume a cost of $348500000 and a price of gold of $1500 troy ounce or $48225 per kg you will make a profit at 8 m tons of gold. And you will still have your space craft.

Slowburn
19th April, 2012 @ 08:11 pm PDT

No matter what your estimate is of the available physical resources on our planet, they are finite. Eventually they will run out. The gamble is not on whether this concept becomes profitable but when.

Also, spin off technologies from the research and development can not be predicted but should be expected to weigh in on the profit and loss statement.

Swede
19th April, 2012 @ 08:31 pm PDT

Maybe initially, but like a lot of start up resource acquisition projects. They don't make money until they get economies of scale on their side. There is a finite amount of natural resources on our planet. And not nearly enough of the rare earths for our consumption. This will add those necessary resources to the global economy. On top of that it's a more worthy investment in resource aquasition then say, oil wells in the south pole... Fair play to them in my opinion. Someone needs to take a big risk on space exploration / colonization for it to work. Otherwise our monkey species will never see ourselfs reach our true potential.

Ross Jenkins
19th April, 2012 @ 08:40 pm PDT

Lunar mining and manufacturing would make more sense. Processed ore and/or finished goods, manufactured in Lunar factories, could be launched to Earth via an equatorial, circumlunar, solar-powered high-speed maglev rapid transport rail system that would double as a launching system; such a launching system could also launch probes and man-carrying craft anywhere in the solar system at a fraction of the cost of launching craft from the Earth's surface.

William H Lanteigne
19th April, 2012 @ 10:28 pm PDT

re; William H Lanteigne

The asteroids have easier access to the high value ores that this company is looking to mine and the mine and smelting waste can be used as reaction mass in a variety of rocket designs.

Slowburn
20th April, 2012 @ 12:05 am PDT

A fairly small Class M rock can be expected to hold more Platinum Group metals than has ever been found or mined on earth. Some of the highest purity deposits on earth come from impact sites.

Platinum and friends are awesome catalysts. A dip in price here on earth from a significant influx of new resources would open up higher efficiency tech in a lot of chemical areas. Fuel cells for instance.

Bob Ehresman
20th April, 2012 @ 07:32 am PDT

With China gobbling up most of the rare earth metals, I think we'll have to do this just to meet future production demands.

Gwyn Rosaire
20th April, 2012 @ 09:55 am PDT

Don't take my word for it: read Mining The Sky by John S Lewis. He worked out a 20 trillion dollar return on asteroid 3554 Amun. Even with a 30 billion outlay - that's a huge return; and only on one asteroid...

pATREUS
20th April, 2012 @ 10:27 am PDT

I wonder how they propose getting this stuff to Earth without burning most of it off upon reentry.

Dave Andrews
20th April, 2012 @ 10:48 am PDT

Well..... the only thing that keep me skeptical about it, is the fact that we cannot see any investor that have a background in Mining....

Asas Eletricas
20th April, 2012 @ 10:56 am PDT

What makes the cost of industry in space so expensive is the price of getting raw materials up there, when we lift them from the Earth. Using materials that are already "up there" significantly reduces the cost of construction. Space based solar power farms become much more plausible, if they can be constructed from materials available out of Earth's gravity well. I've always maintained that Earth's first trillionaire will be a space entrepreneur.

Pat Kelley
20th April, 2012 @ 11:24 am PDT

Trillionaire, Brazillianaire, the term has no real relevance to anything as the unit of measure is forever changing. Like when they report on box office receipts for a play or movie, the cost of the tickets always goes up due to inflation (the result of the decreased perceived purchasing power of a fiat currency) it's all just a ruse. Note the amount of ticket sales by numbers, not how many fiat currency units were needed to buy them.

As to getting the metals back down to Earth, we brought astronauts back home safely, didn't we? Process the asteroids in space using photovoltaics, use the slag as an ablative shield and deploy some parachutes to brake the load. Without gravity in NEO, there might be a problem in getting the dross to separate from the metals, but a centrifuge could overcome that hurdle.

Randy

Expanded Viewpoint
20th April, 2012 @ 12:38 pm PDT

re; Dave Andrews

At the prices gold, platinum, iridium, and rhodium sell at it would be well worth using stripped down Soyuz Reentry Modules to bring it down assuming that you can not assemble an entry vehicle out of the platinum, iridium, and rhodium all of which have excellent high temperature caricaturists. The gold needs heat shield but melting it would provide a heat sink.

Slowburn
20th April, 2012 @ 01:03 pm PDT

@Michael M

Try reading any or all of these great books:

The High Frontier by Gerard K. O'Neill,

Colonies In Space by A. Heppenheim­er.

The Third Industrial Revolution by G. Harry Stine

The Space Enterprise by Philip Robert Harris

or

Mining the Sky by John S. Lewis

CaptD
20th April, 2012 @ 01:57 pm PDT

This looks like ***great*** stuff!

I wonder if this company will be having an IPO? I'd love to be able to buy a few shares in it!

I agree with Randy - getting the stuff back to Earth would be no problem. Ablative heat-shields are well-proven, simple technology.

I *can't wait* for this company to get into mining!

mooseman
20th April, 2012 @ 04:25 pm PDT

Well, mining of space is the future, tho there is one little point. Its illegal by international law. Same as mining all the metal along the ocean floor. But when it comes to money international law don't apply to USA just every one else...according to them. They still think they got the right to sell land on the moon, also illegal. I like the suggestions made in Peter Hamilton´s book in the "the nights dawn trilogy" Where they first melt and inject gas into the metal while still in space, thus making into a big ball full of gasses. So when it goes into a slow re-entry into the atmosphere it melts less AND it floats when it hits the ocean, ready to tug it to some metal factory nearby. In space using the sun to cut and melt, then spinning to separate metals are easy. small robots could do the first. and having one of them operate as a 3d printer in space U make bigger and bigger robot systems right there. But what do I know, coming from Sweden who had a gr8 space program only to get shut down by the government's stupidity. (and Norway who where scared of us launching orbital rockets over there heads.)

Swedish_inventor
20th April, 2012 @ 04:54 pm PDT

A 1 mile asteroid will hit the earth in 4 years . If my math is right. We can mine that one first

Stewart Mitchell
20th April, 2012 @ 04:56 pm PDT

Bring them back to low earth orbit for space based manufacture of very large spacecraft, not to mention dyson bands in solar orbit, making other types equally valuable. Not to mention icy objects can be directed to crash into barren worlds for terra forming. With additional mass, heat and gasses released as a free bonus.

Frank Meriwether
20th April, 2012 @ 06:42 pm PDT

According to "Mining the Sky" bringing things like platinum back to earth would be a minor part of their income flow. The big targets are

1: Manufacture rocket propellant in space and sell it to others in low earth orbit. The idea is that if you want to launch something like a communications satellite you would only need to launch it with enough propellant to reach orbit then purchase the fuel needed to get to geosynchronous orbit. This would be cheaper than launching a rocket with all of the fuel needed to get to geosynchronous orbit.

2: They propose to use asteroids as construction materials to build space based solar power arrays and then beam the electricity back to earth. They claim that this would be cheaper than launching them up from earth.

Good luck to them. Personally, it seems really difficult. Asteroids are not all the same. They arose as fragmented protoplanets so some which came from the core are mostly iron and nickel and those from the outer layers are mostly magnesium silicates with a number of other light elements including some water and carbon. They will need to develop the technology of mining and processing in zero gravity without access to rivers of water or furnaces fired by coal or natural gas. Obviously they already know this and have worked out some sort of plan. It will be interesting to see what they propose to do.

neutrino23
20th April, 2012 @ 06:48 pm PDT

sounds promising, though I don't think they will be taking off from Newt's promised moonbase,,, yeah I know political, sorry.

Bill Bennett
20th April, 2012 @ 08:33 pm PDT

Not long ago I read an article that scientists discovered a planet made entirely out of diamond (the size of Earth).

http://www.gizmag.com/diamond-planet/19630/

I bet this would be worth a whole lot more than the investments in the project *but diamonds are only expensive because of their rarity so soon it would lose value.

However as stated in this article ...many asteroids are rich in gold, platinum, palladium ..very scarce and valuable non-regenerable ressources which are being used up and not recycles in huge amounts on our planet.

(1ou =31g of gold = 1600$ ... if you do the maths you will see that 30 BIL dollars is only about 530 tons of gold ...of cours the project would eventually cost maybe 100 times more by the time it reaches the phase when so much value could be extracted...but hey afterwards its a bottomless wealth mine.

There are also planets/moons/asteroids made entirely of methane/petrol ... bigger than earth ;)) imagine not ever having to hear the "in 50 years there will be no petrol left" theory again.

Plus we can find aliens or kryptonite.

Valentin Radu
21st April, 2012 @ 11:47 am PDT

re; Swedish_inventor

International law is a sad joke. Pick a country how long will its leaders hold out against prosperity? Think taxes paid in gold.

Slowburn
21st April, 2012 @ 11:52 am PDT

The problem is the first 200 miles up, not getting to the Asteroid. I wonder how much it would cost to build a 200 mile high tower of Carbon fibre and Lightweight alloy to shoot cargo into space from ?.

L1ma
21st April, 2012 @ 02:31 pm PDT

Re; Swedish_Inventor

There is no such thing as international law, there are many treatys and agreements and just as many countries ignoring them. The UN has conventions but enforcement on non UN countrys is a grey area. Off the Earth is outside any states authority, countries have a 200 mile limit to their borders at sea. Outside that is not international property, there are no rights whatsoever. Beligerant states are still trying to expand territory beyond this which is why we have this 'International law business' to smokescreen a land grab.

The reason there is no exploitation of the Oceans mineral resources at depth is not a law, but that it is incredibly expensive to maintain and build ships to harvest ocean minerals at 5 - 12 miles, we are looking at $200 million for a rig with a nuclear power supply so it can provide pernament energy to a submerged harvister complex. Its currently cheaper to buy gold off African warlords using slaves.

L1ma
21st April, 2012 @ 02:49 pm PDT

re; L1ma

You can not build a 200 mile tall tower, it would have to be a compression structure and there is not any material strong enough under compression to do the job. Besides it would only save a small fraction of the energy your rocket would need to produce to get into orbit.

We need a full orbital tower that is a tension structure. http://www.gizmag.com/obayashi-space-elevator/21587/

Slowburn
21st April, 2012 @ 10:09 pm PDT

So one ton of Platinum is worth what? Half a billion Dollars?

What's the down-mass of a Dragon?

Game-changer, how very xciting!

SpaceLord
22nd April, 2012 @ 01:15 am PDT

Maintenance is a massive issue with mining operations here on earth. You have to wonder about ongoing maintenance of machines in space if operations are largely intended to be robotic.

On earth it is my understanding that maintenance costs in the mining industries are commonly between 30%-50% of mine site total operating costs. From memory I think it took NASA two years to plan and execute the most recent Hubble refurbishment in LEO. You have to wonder how they would go servicing a massive drill or tunneling machine?

Nevertheless, I applaud the spirit and dreams of these visionaries and hope that they are ultimately successful.

I also hope they get some mining experts on the board.

Wesley Dart
22nd April, 2012 @ 08:53 pm PDT

re; Wesley Dart

NASA is a bureaucratic government agency that can't order coffee without it taking 20 minutes and four sheets of paper.

Slowburn
23rd April, 2012 @ 08:07 am PDT

What about environmental impacts? Space junk isn't trivial and I bet there are other issues too.

Peter Mcilwain
23rd April, 2012 @ 02:25 pm PDT

re; Peter Mcilwain

What ever environmental impact asteroid mining has will be less than that of conventional mining. As for space junk if it does not come back down to earth or endanger other spacecraft it is not an issue.

Slowburn
23rd April, 2012 @ 06:11 pm PDT

Re; slowburn

Try Carbon fibre tubing with a titanium outer shell. Remember our tower does not have to be a vertical spire but can also be hollow and shaped, think more cone made up of interlocking supports.

L1ma
23rd April, 2012 @ 11:22 pm PDT

Re; Slowburn

The Earths escape velocity = 11,100 m/s

Suprisingly enough we would have a 200 mile high elevator with which to reach it, suspended by our tower would be a vaccum tube which houses our space cargo. It is just shot into space by magnetic levitation. We do not however have to reach escape velocity, only sub orbital velocity. It would be silly to throw our space elevator into deep space when we just want its cargo to go into orbit, we therefore just launch our cargo off the tower with the minimum needed velocity and let it power itself.

L1ma
24th April, 2012 @ 12:53 am PDT

my concern with this is that by mining asteroids, wouldn't that be changing the weight of the asteroid, and potentially its orbit?

If there are private companies out there mining asteroids, how do we keep track of changing orbits to ensure that we avoid a collision with one?

Serafina Tikklya
24th April, 2012 @ 01:05 pm PDT

Carbon fiber and titanium are wonderfully strong materiel but they still do not have the compression strength for a 200 mile tall tower.

The orbital tower which can be built provides all the capabilities that the short one would and more besides.

Slowburn
24th April, 2012 @ 01:43 pm PDT

re; Serafina Tikklya

So long as the velocity change does not bring the asteroid onto a collision course with earth it does not matter. You seem to think that a corporation is going to accept the financial liability of recklessly changing orbital paths. One wrongful death judgment would cost more than planning the orbital changes.

Slowburn
24th April, 2012 @ 04:44 pm PDT

"my concern with this is that by mining asteroids, wouldn't that be changing the weight of the asteroid, and potentially its orbit?

If there are private companies out there mining asteroids, how do we keep track of changing orbits to ensure that we avoid a collision with one?

Serafina Tikklya"

Suggest you go and take a good Physics Course.

Weight of an asteroid? No weight, but there is Mass.

The ISS does undergo a change in net Mass when astronauts arrive, or depart, with no resulting changes in orbit.

The only way to change the orbit of an asteroid is to 'accelerate' or 'brake' it by employing expulsion, or addition of mass with speed differential. Miners with enough navigation skill to reach a body have sufficient skill to calculate any changes they may induce.

vortexau
24th April, 2012 @ 06:31 pm PDT

Re; Slowburn

"Carbon fiber and titanium are wonderfully strong materiel but they still do not have the compression strength for a 200 mile tall tower. "

They do and you have missed the mark, you build a cone not a tower. Therefore spreading the load to the base of the structure, you can square root the load from the tower top to the base by having a 200 mile square foundation and never come near 588 MPa (Highest 1310) which is a low quality Carbon tubes limit (Steel is 350 MPa). The liquid metal company has developed a range of nanotech metals which are up to 20 times stronger than titanium, worth a look after mass production starts on the ipad3.

L1ma
25th April, 2012 @ 11:41 am PDT

"The orbital tower which can be built provides all the capabilities that the short one would and more besides"

You have to build the inefficient short tower to launch the mass needed to create the efficient large one.

L1ma
25th April, 2012 @ 11:48 am PDT

re; L1ma

Instead of trying to build a tower that can not be built how about building a fleet of truly reusable aerospace vehicles that don't need to be rebuilt between every flight and use deep space resources to build the tower that is possible.

Slowburn
25th April, 2012 @ 06:53 pm PDT

Space elevators are the way to get off this planet but you humans went on the same way when word first spread of the "new world" which is now america. concentrate on being less of a virus and more of a symbiote with what you already got. just cos someone wrote down the periodic table doesnt mean thats all there is, theres a whole universe out there.

MasterG
26th April, 2012 @ 05:18 am PDT

Re; Slowburn.

We did, they were called Space Shuttle's, they also were advertised as totally reuseable and far cheaper than rockets. We have already demonstrated how not to build an afforable space launch infrastructure. By getting spaceplanes(or Orions) you wont get your asteroid capture, launches will be hijacked to plant flags on planets and the entire program's funding will dissapear in pork barrel politcs, bureaucratic empires and big money with no social return other than to spend tax dollars in a metered way.

To get your deep space resources you must launch the equipment one way to exploit them. Your first steps are the expensive ones, the first space tower(possibly only 15 years of lifespan with Carbon fibre) to launch non stop the equipment to build the first elevator. The kit never comes home, is totally robotic, is never serviced here so there is no dependant lobby to feed off the program untill it completes its mission - after which they get an equal share like everone else rather than being able to feed off the program until it bleeds to death which is what has happened to NASA.

Spaceplanes and rockets only work when you apply SPACEX dogma to your program, maximum efficiency to get maximum return with minimum overhead (no bureaucracy or state jobs program to support). They still only get a few orbit slots a year with the worlds cheapest rockets.

L1ma
26th April, 2012 @ 12:12 pm PDT

re; L1ma

"a fleet of truly reusable aerospace vehicles that don't need to be rebuilt between every flight". This obviously excluded the Space Shuttle, which I have come to believe was designed by people who believed it to be the wrong approach and set out to prove it.

SpaceX has been trying to make their rockets reusable from the start, but they have been busting up rather than parachuting lightly back to earth.

The orbiter I think we could get built would be shaped much like an Avro Vulcan but bigger than a 747 and would be towed to an altitude greater than 50000ft by a plane about the same size but with more thrust than 3 747s that will top off the orbiter's LOX supply just before releasing the orbiter to free flight.

Slowburn
26th April, 2012 @ 05:31 pm PDT

re; L1ma

The payloads from your unbuildable tower are just as liable to be co-opted as the payloads from my aerospace plane.

Slowburn
26th April, 2012 @ 08:02 pm PDT

Re Slowburn;

Again it is not the technology to get your payload and industry into orbit which has let you down, but the politicians and corporate state which fed off your space program.

The great thing about spacex rockets is though as you say their rockets keep breaking up and cannot be (fully)reused they are still making a profit launching at 1/10 th the price of NASA. The point is that we do not need our launcher back to make our space infrastructure work, or trying to reach the holy grail of building reuseable launchers but the less lofty goal of getting our (infinite) space resources despite human greed, dogma and beliefs hamstringing our space program.

While NASA's still flogging Orion on captitol hill good luck on getting funding for your space plane!.

L1ma
26th April, 2012 @ 10:43 pm PDT

We need to get NASA out of the space launch business. And I'll bet there will be more private funding for spaceplanes than collapsing towers.

Slowburn
27th April, 2012 @ 12:23 am PDT

Re; Slowburn

Building a space tower is a project for Africa where the raw materials, and solar energy are nearby the continent has the space in the Sahara to spare which also is equatorial. Yes! the tower will collapse, the environment is harsh with 200 mph plus winds, lightning strikes and ozone eating away at the structure. It is what it would do for you before then that matters - it just needs a decade of life just endlessly shooting off cargo into orbit, 24/7/365.

If it it happens it will not be a US project.

L1ma
27th April, 2012 @ 03:10 am PDT

High winds, ozone, and lightning are not the problems.

For the same amount of money you can get a fleet of spaceplanes that deliver an average of 2 payloads to space a day each. They also are much more flexible on which orbit they insert their cargo into.

Think airliner not space shuttle.

Slowburn
27th April, 2012 @ 07:35 pm PDT

Re; Slowburn

We now have Skylon, which is based on HOTOL a design from 1986. 26 years is a long time not to make the utlra efficient spaceplane which would open up the cosmos. If building spaceplanes can be blocked for a quarter of a century for no reason, they can be blocked until the end of time.

You would still only be allowed limited launch slots so the amount of cargo you can take into orbit is limited (Your space junk and comm/spysats caused this) and slots are often reserved. You would still have other restrictions placed upon your ability to launch and retrieve your plane - they need to be fully inspected and the heat shield repaired but more importantly airspace must be cleared in a crowded sky or the wash from a mach 25 spaceplane will cause every aircraft across a continent to suffer enough turbulence to crash (this happened in 1994 after an Aurora bomber landed in Germany, causing a Chinook to crash in the Scottish Highlands). We cannot shut down all air commerce so one new starter can fly a regular twice daily service.

Asteroid mining and moon mining means sending infrastructure which needs thousands of tonnes a year to get a return on that investment within an appreciable time. Aircraft can also take a decade to build, and if you look at what happens with nearly all of the design and building programs which involved all the major contractors for aircraft and ships, they were massively over budget, delayed and did not perform to the specifications laid down with a tiny fraction of the advertised lifespan due to shoddy construction (A380, Dreamliner F35 F22 I can go on and on). These are the people upon whom spaceplane manufacture would depend.

All in all I'd rather not have my spaceplane fleet grounded every other month due to faults needing expensive retrofits. Dont get me wrong, I am a fan of Skylon and HOTOL but I am realistic, the people whom we depend upon to make them happen are opposed to making them a reality, and they have real problems operating in the real world - they need clear skys and even tribesmen in the Sahel can now use mobile phones to complain about the noise.

L1ma
28th April, 2012 @ 03:34 am PDT

re; L1ma

While single stage to orbit might be possible it is very difficult at best so projects like Skylon are chasing a much more elusive dream than the two stage system I describe that flies at essentially a subsonic profile except for its reentry belly plunge for which there is plenty of open ocean to do it over. It will be higher and slower than the shuttle when it pushes its nose down to stop plummeting and start flying. The shuttle was a low lift high drag design. mine is the opposite.

Blaming a helicopter crash an a airplane that doesn't exist. Really?

The footprint of a sonic boom does not double in size if you accelerate from mach 1 to mach 25. Planes have flown through the mushroom cloud from nuclear explosions. Besides it is flying slow and heavy that generates the heavy turbulence.

Complex designs always have bugs that need to be worked out including buildings that need materials stronger than currently available.

Slowburn
29th April, 2012 @ 09:30 pm PDT

Re Slowburn;

The problem with 'black' programs is that they exist but are never confirmed until long after they have ceased to be of value. The case with the Aurora is that all the major players in US were given funding to develop the technology from 1985 - please check out you FY annual Selected activities budget and the request for $2 billion in 1987 under Aurora. I doubt there is more than one prototype. It is just no longer welcome in the UK.

The high mach wash is really evident during acceleration and deceleration when the aircraft is leaving and entering the lower atmosphere. Concord had many restrictions, a noisy big aircraft with a huge turbulence has many environmental objections and like Concord will not live up to the Hype. We were promised cheap worldwide transport, but ended up with 5 aircraft that could fly twice a day only 100 people at £5000 a ticket, a loss leader flagship airplane which never made a profit. That's the future of Skylon if it is ever built, its time was in 1986.

If you wish to demonstrate your mushroom flying skills, please take your private heliocopter through the next blast when it is channeled through a mountain pass, enjoy!.

Other that that, I'd like to have a laugh about your continuing materials opposition to buildings. If Each of the tower's span would hold at least 12 times its own mass, you therefore can have 10 span lengths vertically, If each span has instead on one supporting span, has two, you can support 20 spans easily the load is spit 50% at each span + 1 span weight, I do not know what your problem is, because to solve it we just add more supporting spans to the structure, . We need never reach crush mass - ever, and if want to we can jacket them all in a high tensile material. Also Being carbon we can mold our spans into a near solid structure.

L1ma
30th April, 2012 @ 03:38 am PDT

re; L1ma

What was the Aurora suppose to accomplish? Fly so high and fast that it could not be shot down? The SR-71 had all ready achieved that. Stealth? The heat and compressed air of its passage would destroy any chance of it not showing on radar or infrared detectors.

The Aurora budget line was for some of the money for the then black B-2 bomber.

The helicopter crashed and for some reason it is easier to blame The Big Bad Americans than to accept that nature could still not be completely understood and predicted.

The Concord was noisy and it did create a lot of turbulence during take offs and landings but it made a profit for years after they started charging what the passengers had already thought they were paying, and Islamic terrorist's attacks on 9/11/01 triggered a recession, killed many of the regular passengers, and most importantly killed many of the executives that authorized high value employes flying on the concord on their expense account. the inadvisable modifications required after the Air France crash did not raise the ticket price above what the passengers were willing to pay.

The Concord's development was a classic example of mismanagement. For example it would not have been cost effective for there to have been two production lines even if they had sold every plane they thought there was a market for. The Tu-144 program was equally badly run Tupolev would have made a wing and tail design that would have been massively more efficient on takeoffs and landings and equally efficient at speed as the curvy delta concord has at supersonic flight had they not been ordered to make a delta.

Your Spans have to be joined together and this will create stress points that exceed the strength of your materials.

Slowburn
30th April, 2012 @ 11:19 am PDT

Re Slowburn;

"Your Spans have to be joined together and this will create stress points that exceed the strength of your materials." - with a rating of over 12000 MPa or the ability to carry over 800 tonnes for each carbon tube, I think we can spare a lot of mass for a decent socket.

"The helicopter crashed and for some reason it is easier to blame The Big Bad Americans than to accept that nature could still not be completely understood and predicted." - the pilots were blamed at an inquest without evidence, it took 17 years to publicly admit that they could not possibly have been to blame.

L1ma
1st May, 2012 @ 12:29 am PDT

re; L1ma

A finding that we can't know what caused the crash accusing the pilots of gross negligence was wrong does not mean the crash was not caused by pilot error. If you are going to blame Americans for the crash blame Boeing for installing a buggy engine control computer that there is no evidence that it caused the crash but at least actually exists.

Also the environmental concerns about the Concord were proven to be false by a long term study conducted in military high speed flight training areas.

Slowburn
1st May, 2012 @ 08:46 am PDT

Re; Slowburn

The so called buggy flight software led to not one flight accident in the US fleet, however all software has some bugs : -One of the many sites with the best questions.

(http://www.deepblacklies.co.uk/the_mystery_of_flight_zulu_delta.htm)

The Aurora was based at RAF Machrihanish in the Mull of Kintyre at that time. However all there is to go on is rumor - based on witnesses (http://www.deeppoliticsforum.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-86.html).

Currenly I will have to wait until 2055 until I (may possibly if still alive)discover the truth in the archives.

I agree with the environmental concerns about Concord being groundless, its flight rules meant that supersonic flight was at maximum altitude over the Atlantic, however it was dependant on a fuel which has reached astronomical prices since the day it was designed, it became uneconomic during the 70's fuel crisis so no more could be built.

Hotol/Skylon/Sanger class of spaceplane's would require an Island not a Continent to run from today, Acension in the South Atlantic, Papua New Guinea or the Hawaiian Islands. They have to be large enough, nearly uninhabited and with such residents who would welcome a spaceport development. And with cheap liquid hydrogen in whatever form, its not cheap - it is the worlds (currently) most expensive fuel to make and store. Which is why SpaceX is doing so well not using it.

We have become NIMBYS:- we want the fruits of the development but more than anything else want someone else to pay for it. Progress is very expensive, no'one wants to live under the air corridor, next to the factory or by the motorway.

L1ma
1st May, 2012 @ 10:45 am PDT

re; L1ma

I read the articles you linked.

Mock three blips = SR-71

Ear piercing jet engine noise there are a variety of aircraft including the Harrier

Triangular airplane = F-117

Dart shaped airplane off the top of my head SR-71, T-38-F-5, Concord, And depending on the nature of the dart even the F-117.

Aurora is disinformation to get people looking for a fantasy rather than what was really being done.

I find it more likely that the "passengers" were killed by a successful IRA operation and the helicopter deliberately crashed to cover this up than a sonic boom that nobody heard and the jet wash from a plane nobody saw brought it down. Supersonic aircraft and helicopters coexist in lots of places. I heard a sonic boom driving into Las Vegas, NV and was over flown by a HH-53 just a few minutes later.

..........................................................................................................................

Concord's limited range and the inability to secure over ground supersonic privileges is what limited its sales, especially with the cost of the extra production line included on the increasingly reducing number of airframes that could have routes found for them. Through the 80s, and 90s Concord flew at a profit.

............................................................................................................................

Spaceplanes do not need an island to fly from. The west coast of any equatorial land mass will do as the planes can make a wide U-turn while flying aerodynamically.

Slowburn
1st May, 2012 @ 06:49 pm PDT

Re; Slowburn

Those articles also contained links to newspapers most of which are very reliable and credible. However your assertion that the B2, SR71 & F117 those sighted is no more credible than a mystery hypersonic aircraft. The US has a huge number of black aircraft programs, the problem being when they crash or cause civilian deaths in countries other than the US an wad of cash to the victims tends not to buy silence.

The UK usually uses fear, blame redirection official denial and secrecy, it is more effective but temporary. Owning most of the 'free press' also helps, it may well be that it is all belief in the same vein as the MMR jab, but for 15 years immunization dropped by 75%, and there was good grounds in that the first generation vaccine used a live weakened measles virus which did cause measles. The point is now there is good grounds for the belief that such aircraft can cause vortice's powerful enough to cause an air accident. That is enough to halt development.

So it is public opposition to the development, not what is needed by your spaceplanes. No'one wants to live under the flightpath of a Mach 25 airplane. No air transport company wants to have its crowded skys cleared twice a day so one can have express service either.

L1ma
2nd May, 2012 @ 01:55 am PDT

Re Slowburn;

It is our beliefs that shape our perception of what should be or should not be. If a proven untrustworthy entity is pressing for your tax dollars to fund a pet program you would be very skeptical and sieze upon any evidence against it. You believe more in a trustworthy entitry than solid facts. The problem with secrecy and denial is that it allows the public to make their own opinion based on witnesses - the court of public opinion.

The US is in the spot in that it did not prove it was not involved in the Mull of Kintyre air crash, the best possible thing to have done would to have gone open in 1994. Instead it went stumm. So there are 2 possible causes of death after the official (second) disproval of the official RAF verdict, a failure of the flight contol system of a 1000 strong fleet aircraft or a 3rd party causing the crash. There is absolutley no evidence of tampering by the IRA.

Given the choice most people would mistrust the Government, they lie a lot.

This bodes ill for hypersonic flight, it is Government regulators who will decide on its approval, and the public in the jury who will vote against it. That is the whole point I have tried to make with you. Without public approval you will not get spaceplanes or anything else, the reputation of these (White Elephant) programes is poor unless you are an enthusiast.

L1ma
2nd May, 2012 @ 09:59 am PDT

re; L1ma

Hopefully this asteroid mining venture will both be profitable and get governments out of the space launch business.

Please link to evidence that there is good grounds for the belief that such aircraft can cause vortices powerful enough to cause an air accident. Wingtip vortices are not generated at high speeds because they take more time to form than the wing is in the given air mass. At low speeds high wing loading does generate vorteces so such aircraft do need to have greater space behind them than planes with more lightly loaded wings. this does not constitute "clearing the airspace". Clearing space for reentering aerospace craft is not difficult. There is plenty of over water airspace that is not congested. A proper aerospace craft has light wing loading to give it the ability to efficiently clime to high altitudes using airbreathing engines. This also makes the wings generate much high drag to weight than the poorly designed shuttle during reentry. This decelerates the craft at higher altitudes and lower temperatures.

About the Mull of Kintyre air crash. How are you going to prove a negative. If you take One thousand reindeer to an altitude of 1500 meters and toss them out the back of the airplane and they all crash to the ground all you have proven is that those 1000 reindeer either could not or chose not to fly in that place on that day.

A spaceplane or new SST has to be a private industry program. The trick with the SST is that it must be able to generate a profit on subsonic routes.

Slowburn
2nd May, 2012 @ 12:45 pm PDT

How many of you remember the Hughes mega-mining ship the Glomar Explorer. The world was told it was build and designed to mine mineral deposits on the ocean floor. The real and secret mission was to retrieve a sunken Soviet nuclear sub.

The same logic applies to this "mining asteroids" story. If it sounds like a boondoggle it's probably is. The real purpose of capturing these asteroids may in fact to attach booster rockets to them in order to relocate their earth-impact trajectory. It would likely seem to scary a prospect to announce this to the public. Obviously we can't blow the things up as this would simply transform the bullet effect into a shotgun effect. So if we can harness the largest and most dangerous ones and rocket them out of harms way it would definitely be worth the effort.

Janet Bratter
2nd May, 2012 @ 08:30 pm PDT

Re Slowburn;

The point of beliefs is that they do require a burden of proof to be in effect, most of the world believe in some form of God without evidence other that the belief that we were created by one.

The world is not run by rational beings.

L1ma
3rd May, 2012 @ 01:44 am PDT

re; Janet Bratter

If Howard Hughes had simply taken a contract to raise the Russian sub the Glomar Explorer would probably be earning a profit today by deep sea mining. Instead he merely agreed to put his name on the project to hide the fact it was an American Intelligence operation.

Of the minerals that Planetary Resources intends to extract in bulk Gold is the least repeat least valuable.

Slowburn
3rd May, 2012 @ 09:09 am PDT

re; L1ma

So you are admitting that you have made claims for which there is no evidence for.

The problem with compression load carbon fiber structures is that you have to maintain perfect alinement of the fibers even during torsion and side loads.

Slowburn
3rd May, 2012 @ 10:58 pm PDT

Re; Slowburn

"So you are admitting that you have made claims for which there is no evidence for."

Evidence = what is seen.

What was heard was a flight path of a fast moving object over Scotland and whose sonic booms were heard over the North Sea and across Denmark at the exact time of the crash.

It is enouth to convict someone flying a unlisted flight in most courts 'if' vortices from the only operator of secret hypersonic aircraft was the sole cause of flight accidents, we still have reasonable doubt but most of us live outside the courtroom. That is the problem with secrecy, proving it was not you.

"The problem with compression load carbon fiber structures is that you have to maintain perfect alinement of the fibers even during torsion and side loads. "

Normal 85% - 95% Carbon fibre tensile strength around (820,000 psi, 5,650 MPa or 5.65 N/mm²)

Modulus of elasticity for the Graphine varient (77,000,000 psi or 531 GPa or 531 kN/mm²)

Because carbon fibre is blended, weft and warp we get properties of both. Because MPa is a rating, we can change the thickness of the tube to raise the overall crush rating of the tube, if we blend in a 50% Graphine warp we can half the MPa instantly - but get 50 times the elasaticity solving your sheer problem. The Carbon fibre is a woven layered structure, we would be relying on friction and bonding agents to keep fibre alinement. The Eurofighter's wings seem to manage quite well, How long for is another matter.

L1ma
5th May, 2012 @ 03:29 am PDT

re; L1ma

Even if a hypersonic aircraft did cause the crash for which there is no reason to believe it did. Helicopters coexist with sonic booms and high power jet engines all the time. Correlation is not causality.

There are sources of sonic booms other than airplanes. I heard one from a meteor that might have survived to land in eastern Colorado or western Kansas. So assuming it was a man made object there is no reason to believe that it was an American aircraft, it is not like we are the only people who can design and build an airplane.

The carbon fiber in the Eurofighter's wings is not operating near as close to its theoretical compression strength as the fiber would have to in your tower.

Slowburn
5th May, 2012 @ 09:19 pm PDT

"The asteroids have easier access to the high value ores that this company is looking to mine..."

"Easier access?" This has yet to be proven. We know how to get to the Moon, and a round trip can be done in less than a week using proven technology.

"...high value ores...?" The Moon is a lot closer than the asteroids. We know where the craters from asteroidal impacts are on the Moon, and we know they would contain a fair amount of asteroidal ore. Digging up ore on the Moon has got to be more cost-effective than chasing down space rocks; and then, after processing, the refined product still has to be shipped back several tens of millions of miles back to Earth?

I agree that asteroid mining may have a future, but the Moon is doable in a reasonable timeframe, with a better chance of financial success.

"...and the mine and smelting waste can be used as reaction mass in a variety of rocket designs"

Okay, show me one that actually exists, at least in "proof of concept" form. The Moon can be exploited with existing chemical rockets.

William H Lanteigne
6th May, 2012 @ 12:41 am PDT

re; William H Lanteigne

In its simplest form a rocket is just a man with a barrel of rocks throwing the rocks in the opposite direction of which he wishes to accelerate. The little bits of matter thrown off by a grinding wheel are accelerated and ever since Newton published his laws of motion it has been common knowledge that there is an equal and opposite reaction. On earth gravity and friction keep the thrust from being noticed but it is there.

On Mythbusters to test how dangerous a tread throw of a truck tire could be they built a tire tread accelerator by spinning two other tires against each other using a pickups drive train to power it. (Incidentally the tread from a truck tire at highway speed can almost completely sever a human head from its body.) They also built a Steam powered "machine gun" that accelerated large ball bearings to not quite lethal velocity. This design looks more wear resistant.

A chemically fired gun (powdered aluminum and oxygen) launching slugs of low value material could work.

Ion rockets can use any mass that can be vaporized and given an electric charge.

A modified NERVA can be fed any liquid that will vaporize at a temperature in which the engine remains solid. It is relatively easy to build one that eats either a reducing mass or a oxidizing mass. One that can eat either is enough more of a challenge that it might be better to build one engine of each design for your craft.

Digging a nice hole placing a nuclear explosive devise at the bottom and piling slag on top of it before detonating the devise will greatly increase the efficiency of a nuclear pulse engine.

Distance is more or less meaningless it is the required change of velocity that is important. Viking probes massed 3527 kg. That is almost four tons sent to Mars on chemical engines, near earth asteroids require less change in velocity.

If I want asteroidal material I will go to an asteroid not dig through hundreds of tons of lunar rock looking for tiny pieces.

Slowburn
6th May, 2012 @ 10:31 pm PDT

Re; Slowburn

I will amend your statement to with proper separation and with the transponders turned on so all partys are abiding by flight safety rules.

Meteors are also picked up on the AEW station RAF Fylingdales, reports of which are publicly logged. There are none for the date in question.

You quoted:

"We need a full orbital tower that is a tension structure. http://www.gizmag.com/obayashi-space-elevator/21587/"

However you are perpared to believe in a tension elevator but no'one as of yet has created a single 25000 mile long Carbon fibre.

There is no physical proof that building a 200 mile high tower being possible, either. However you already stand on a solid compression structure over 12 miles in height, made of Granite with a 200 MPa. The Moons solid Granite crust can be over 60 miles thick. Ignoring this and stating a 1300MPa lightweight material structure of greater height is impossible is making yourself look silly. With you I am talking to the Pope trying to make him believe the Earth is not flat.

L1ma
7th May, 2012 @ 05:22 am PDT

re; L1ma

You discounted the buggy engine control software as a possible cause of the crash because it did not cause any other crashes. Yet you have not shown a case were a very fast moving plane has caused a helicopter to crash.

You have blamed America without explaining why the plane was flying in European Airspace (from Scotland and across Denmark) rather than Restricted American Airspace.

I suggest there are other sources of booming noises and mention one that I am personally familiar with. You said no meteors were tracked in the time in question to dismiss all other noise generators. Presuming the track would be by radar there is a low but not zero possibility that a meteor could have a miniscule radar cross section.

When I was about 10 I twisted together a 4 foot (1.2192m) long rope from grass clippings (Kentucky Bluegrass) no strand of which was over 4 inches (10.16cm) long. Looped over a tree branch it held my weight for several minutes. The individual fibers do not have to be the full length of the structure.

I have also broken a brick under a load well below its design strength because I didn't notice that I had concentrated the load onto a much smaller section of the brick. I had a two piece fiberglass fishing pole shatter in my hands when I was putting it together for no apparent reason.

An orbital tower could in theory be built out of high tensile steel but the quantity is ridiculous even by the standards of a project the size of an orbital tower.

There is also a big difference between bedrock and a tower.

Your Pope only had the miss reading of a text to base his opinion on in the face of every ship that had gone over the horizon and returned, and Eratosthenes of Cyrene measuring the circumference of the earth in the third century BC. I have some reasonably relevant personal experiences to go along with my book learning on the subject.

You are using a conspiracy theory to try to discredit aerospace vehicles that would work to support building a tower that if it did support its own weight wouldn't survive the stresses imposed by the recoil of the catapult launch system that you suggest.

Slowburn
7th May, 2012 @ 12:29 pm PDT

"we cannot see any investor that have a background in Mining.... "

Good thing these investors arent planning on building any mines then eh?

Dan K
18th August, 2012 @ 02:46 pm PDT

This needs to go ahead, not with finacial gain as the driving force, but continuation of our way of life.

The sooner we stop worrying about how many shiney coins we have, the better for man kind.

We can't strip mine the earth for ever. I'm no tree hugging greenie but even I can see that what we do to this planet can not go on forever. We have been placed in a solour system abundant with resources.

We have been given the ability to travel into space.

And what have with done? So far, we've taken some holiday snaps.

Man once stood on the beach, looking at the ocean, thinking "I think I can cross that".

It's time to look up.

Chris Winter
25th June, 2013 @ 07:18 pm PDT
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