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Asteroid resource map for near-Earth space

Sanchez Cuartielles, Joan-Pau and McInnes, Colin (2011) Asteroid resource map for near-Earth space. Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 48 (1). pp. 153-165. ISSN 0022-4650

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Abstract

Most future concepts for the exploration and exploitation of space require a large initial mass in low Earth orbit. Delivering this required mass from the Earth’s surface increases cost due to the large energy input necessary to move mass out of the Earth’s gravity well. An alternative is to search for resources in-situ among the near Earth asteroid population. 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.