2015.A.3.5. Using CubeSats to survey asteroids as part of an asteroid mining mission


Kieran Hayward (1)
Avi Ginsburg (1)
Chengyu Ma (1)

  1. Cranfield University, United Kingdom




Hall Effect Thruster, Laser Communications, asteroid surveying


Two 6U CubeSats designed to act as prospecting vehicles for an asteroid mining mission are presented. The mining mission will mine near Earth asteroids (orbiting in the region of 0.8-1.3AU) for water, and the CubeSats are therefore designed to determine the composition of the asteroid to aid in determining its suitability for mining. The CubeSat’s are equipped with IR cameras, an IR spectrometer and three penetrators containing seismometers. It is assumed that these instruments will give an indication of the chemical composition of the asteroid as well as the stratigraphic record of the asteroid.

As the CubeSats are used as prospecting vehicles for an asteroid mining mission they are designed to reach a large number of target asteroids, in order to do this they will be launched into geostationary Earth orbit as secondary payloads and then use high impulse Hall Effect thrusters (using iodine propellant) to propel themselves to the asteroid. In order to allow for high data rates over the long distances one CubeSat is equipped with a laser communications system, for redundancy the second CubeSat is equipped with a deployable high gain antenna. A detailed design of both CubeSat’s is presented along with preliminary trajectory design for leaving Earth orbit.


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