Autonomous Robot Swarms for Off-World Construction and Resource Mining

12/03/2019
by   Jekan Thangavelautham, et al.
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Kick-starting the space economy requires identification of critical resources that can lower the cost of space transport, sustain logistic bases and communication relay networks between major nodes in the network. One important challenge with this space-economy is ensuring the low-cost transport of raw materials from one gravity-well to another. The escape delta-v of 11.2 km/s from Earth makes this proposition very expensive. Transporting materials from the Moon takes 2.4 km/s and from Mars 5.0 km/s. Based on these factors, the Moon and Mars have the potential to export material into this space economy. Water has been identified as a critical resource both to sustain human-life but also for use in propulsion, attitude-control, power, thermal storage and radiation protection systems.There is also important need for construction materials such as aluminum, iron/steel, and titanium. Based upon these important findings, we have developed an energy model to determine the feasibility of developing a mining base on the Moon and Mars. These mining base mine and principally exports water, aluminum, titanium and steel. Our designs for a mining base utilize renewable energy sources namely photovoltaics and solar-thermal concentrators to provide power to construct the base, keep it operational and export water and other resources using a Mass Driver. Using the energy model developed, we will determine the energy per Earth-day to export 100 tons each of water, titanium, aluminum and low-grade steel into escape velocity of the Moon and Mars. We perform a detailed comparison of the energy required for construction of similar bases on the Moon and Mars, in addition to the operating energy required for regolith excavation, processing, refining and finally transport off-the-body.

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