DSI to develop technology for asteroid mining payloads returning to Earth orbit
Deep Space Industries and the University of Tennessee have been awarded NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program funding for developing technology to slow spacecraft carrying asteroid resources as they return to Earth’s orbit.
The purpose of asteroid mining is to collect fuel and building materials harvested from near Earth asteroids and provide them to commercial and government missions. One major challenge to making asteroid mining a reality is slowing down the returning mining spacecraft as they approach Earth. Returning from distant destinations, these spacecraft will be traveling at high speeds, so slowing them down enough to slip into orbit is quite difficult.
Current braking methods call for the returning asteroid mining spacecraft to expend a great deal of propellant to slow itself down enough to achieve low Earth orbit insertion. However, propellant is heavy and valuable, so if another way ...