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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 uniquely accessible sources of building materials, propellants, oxygen, water, and minerals. They 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 ability to extract the desired momentum obtained. Momentum harvesting by momentum transfer from asteroid to spacecraft, and by using the momentum of the extraterrestrial material to help deliver itself to its destination is discussed. The purpose is neither to quantify nor justify the momentum exchange processes, but to stimulate collective imaginations with some intriguing possibilities which emerge when momentum as well as material is considered. A net and tether concept is the suggested means of asteroid capture, the basic momentum exchange process. The energy damping characteristics of the tether determines the velocity mismatch that can be tolerated, and hence the amount of momentum that can be harvested per capture. As the tether plays out of its reel, drag on the tether steadily accelerates the spacecraft and dilutes, in time, the would-be collision. A variety of concepts for riding and using asteroids after capture are introduced. The hitchhiker uses momentum transfer only. The beachcomber, the caveman, the swinger, the prospector, and the rock wrecker also take advantage of raw asteroid materials. The chemist and the hijacker go further, they process the asteroid into propellants. Or, an asteroid railway system could be constructed with each hijacked asteroid becoming a scheduled train. Travelers could board this space railway system assured that water, oxygen propellants, and shielding await them. Austere space travel could give way to comforts, with a speed and economy impossible without nature's gift of earth visiting asteroids.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Conference Paper
Willoughby, Alan J.
(Analex Corp. Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1991
Publication Information
Publication: Arizona Univ., Resources of Near-Earth Space: Abstracts
Subject Category
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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