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Accessibility of the resources of near Earth space using multi-impulse transfers

Sanchez, J.P. and McInnes, Colin R. (2010) Accessibility of the resources of near Earth space using multi-impulse transfers. In: 2010 AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2010-08-02 - 2010-08-05.

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Most future concepts for exploration and exploitation of space require a large initial mass in low Earth orbit. Delivering this mass requires overcoming Earth's natural gravity well, which imposes a distinct obstacle to space-faring. An alternative for future space progress is to search for resources in-situ among the near Earth asteroid population. This paper examines the scenario of future utilization of asteroid resources. The near Earth asteroid resources that could be transferred to a bound Earth orbit are determined by integrating the probability of finding asteroids inside the Keplerian orbital element space of the set of transfers with an specific energy smaller than a given threshold. Transfers are defined by a series of impulsive maneuvers and computed using the patched-conic approximation. The results show that even moderately low energy transfers enable access to a large mass of resources.