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Momentum harvesting techniques for solar system travelAstronomers are lately estimating there are 400,000 Earth visiting asteroids larger than 100 meters in diameter. These asteroids are accessible sources of building materials, propellants, oxygen, water, and minerals which also constitute a huge momentum reserve, potentially usable for travel throughout the solar system. To use this momentum, these stealthy objects must be tracked and the extraction of the momentum wanted must be learned. Momentum harvesting by momentum transfer from asteroid to spacecraft, and by using the momentum of the extraterrestrial material to help deliver itself to the destination are discussed. A net and tether concept is the suggested means of asteroid capture, the basic momentum exchange process. The energy damping characteristics of the tether will determine the velocity mismatch that can be tolerated, and hence the amount of momentum that can be harvested per capture. As it plays out of its reel, drag on the tether steadily accelerates the spacecraft. A variety of concepts for riding and using the asteroid after capture are discussed. The hitchhiker uses momentum transfer only. The beachcomber, the caveman, the swinger, the prospector, and the rock wrecker also take advantage of raw asteroidal materials. The chemist and the hijacker go further, they process the asteroid into propellant. Or, an 'asteroid railway system' could evolve with each hijacked asteroid becoming a scheduled train. Travelers could board the space railway system assured that water, oxygen, and propellants await them.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Willoughby, Alan J.
(Analex Corp. Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
April 1, 1990
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Lewis Research Center, Vision-21: Space Travel for the Next Millennium
Subject Category
Astronautics (General)
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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