NASA OSIRIS-REx Will Sample Return from Asteroid and Other Asteroid News

NASA OSIRIS-REx Will Sample Return from an Asteroid

On the afternoon of December 31, NASA OSIRIS-REx entered orbit around asteroid Bennu. About 70 million miles away from Earth, Bennu broke the record for becoming the smallest object in space to have a human-made spacecraft in its orbit.

The NASA OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) mission is designed to return a sample of material from near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid Bennu. The primary scientific objectives are to: (1) return and analyze a sample (at least 60 g, with a capability of up to 2 kg) of pristine asteroid regolith; (2) map the global properties, chemistry, and mineralogy; (3) document the texture, morphology, volatile chemistry, and spectral properties of the sample site; (4) measure the orbit deviation caused by non-gravitational forces (the Yarkovsky effect); and, (5) characterize the integrated global properties of the asteroid for comparison with ground-based observations. OSIRIS-REx launched on 08 September 2016 at 23:05 UT. It will sample the asteroid in July 2020 and return the sample to Earth in September 2023.

Japan Hayabusa2 Asteroid Rovers

Japan’s Space Agency has sent a mission to an asteroid. Japan’s asteroid mission Hayabusa2 has successfully dropped the first two rovers to the surface of its target space rock Ryugu. Hayabusa2 dropped to a lowest altitude of just 55 meters from the surface and released twin rovers, called MINERVA-II 1A and 1B.

Cameras on the hexagonal rovers will use rotating motors to hop across the surface, each jump lasting some 15 minutes owing to the body’s low gravity.

Hayabusa had left the asteroid and has now returned to it.

This week, Hayabusa2 returned perfectly from solar conjunction to hover back at the home position at 20km from the asteroid. Although this situation was similar to when we approached the asteroid in June, it was a tense operation as there was no room for mistakes. However, the spacecraft was able to return to its orbit exactly as planned. New Year’s Eve on the 31st December was the last operation of the year. The distance to the asteroid could be measured once again with LIDAR and we returned to normal operations without any problems. The beginning of the New Year is a holiday in Japan, but full-scale operations will begin with adjustments for the 2019 touchdown operation.

To guarantee the safety of the mission during the period of solar conjunction, the spacecraft was inserted into a “conjunction trajectory” last week on 2018.11.23. Hayabusa2 will reach its maximum distance of 110km from Ryugu on 2018.12.11 and return to the home position at an altitude of 20km on 2018.12.29

Japan’s Hayabusa mission has an english website.

Luxembourg Talked About Being a Space Mining Hub

The country of Luxembourg has stated they want to become a hub for space mining.

In 2017, Kleos Space, 100% owned by UK-based Magna Parva, is one of dozens of firms to have either settled in the tiny country or signed cooperation agreements with the government since it launched its program to promote the mining of asteroids for minerals last year. Kleos Space will collaborate with EmTroniX, a Luxembourg-based electronics developer, and with the country’s Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), to speed up development of in-space manufacturing technology.

Deep Space Industries and Luxembourg were jointly developing Prospector-X, a small and experimental spacecraft that test technologies for prospecting and mining near Earth asteroids after 2020.

Private Industry Asteroid Mining Problems

Bradford Space, a U.S.-owned space systems manufacturer with locations in the Netherlands and Sweden, has acquired control of Deep Space Industries (aka DSI). DSI will become Bradford’s first substantial U.S. presence, providing an outlet and location for activities in the U.S. space market.

Bradford Space has been part of 119 launches and has 1920 products in space. Bradford is a high-tech developer and manufacturer of satellite control sub-systems and components. They focus on focus on off-the-shelf solutions for satellite and space needs. Bradford has about 75 employees.

In 2012, DSI was started with the goal of mining asteroids. DSI has more recently become known for its production of the Comet™ water-based electrothermal propulsion systems. Four Comet systems are currently on orbit on spacecraft operated by Capella Space and HawkEye 360. Other customers of DSI include LeoStella, a joint venture of Spaceflight and Thales Alenia Space, and the Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), a satellite development group inside the University of Toronto.

The addition of the Comet product line is seen as critical to Bradford’s development as a world-leading supplier of non-toxic space propulsion systems and will be a complement to the Bradford ECAPS ‘green’ propulsion systems. ECAPS propulsion systems are already found on fifteen orbiting spacecraft with more planned for launch in 2019, said Bradford & ECAPS Managing director Patrick van Put. ECAPS propulsion systems were found on three spacecraft on the recently launched Spaceflight SSO-A mission, alongside four spacecraft equipped with DSI Comet systems.

Status of Space Mining

Transastra is a company working on optical mining of asteroids.

The other main asteroid mining company was Planetary Resources. A blockchain software technology company called ConsenSys bought Planetary Resources. ConsenSys has about 900 employees. In December, 2018, ConsenSys restructured and laid off 13% of its staff.

Moon Express has been targeting mining the moon. Moon Express should be getting some money from NASA for commercial lunar payloads.

July 2018, Moon Express was unable to make payroll on several occasions and laid off nine employees. The employees did not receive back-pay until October 2018, four months later. In October 2018, Moon Express signed several collaboration agreements with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and a number of Canadian aerospace companies.

On November 29, 2018 Moon Express was awarded a Commercial Lunar Payload Services contract by NASA, which makes it eligible to bid on delivering science and technology payloads to the Moon for NASA.

Aten Engineering provides technical solutions in the areas of detection, discovery, follow-up and characterization of Near Earth Asteroids, with the goal of enabling in-space resource extraction and utilization to pave the way for Human exploration of the Solar System.

Offworld is a company with offices in Pasadena and Luxembourg. They want to send small robots into space and mine asteroids.

Spacefab is another company that is talking about asteroid mining.