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Passive sorting of asteroid material using solar radiation pressure

Garcia Yarnoz, Daniel and Sanchez Cuartielles, Joan-Pau and McInnes, Colin (2014) Passive sorting of asteroid material using solar radiation pressure. Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics, 37 (4). pp. 1223-1235. ISSN 1533-3884

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Abstract

Understanding dust dynamics in the vicinity of asteroids is key for future science missions and, in the long-term, for asteroid exploitation. This paper analyses the feasibility of manipulating asteroid material by means of solar radiation pressure. A novel method is proposed for passively sorting material as a function of its grain size or density, where solar radiation pressure is used as a passive in-situ ‘mass spectrometer’. A simplified analysis shows that in principle this method allows an effective sorting of regolith material. This could have immediate applications for a sample return mission, and for industrial scale in-situ resource utilization to separate and concentrate regolith according to particle size or composition.