Is it Possible to Mine in Space?

Space mining is the mining procedure where minerals could be mined from an asteroid or spent comet. Then those minerals are taken back to Earth or used in space for construction materials. These minerals include iron, nickel and titanium for construction. The idea of space mining is very much important because Earth might run out of phosphorus, antimony, zinc, tin, silver, lead, indium, gold and copper in approximately 60 years.

The fun fact is that all the gold, cobalt, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhenium, rhodium, ruthenium and tungsten which are mined from Earth’s crust, originally came from the rain of asteroids that hit Earth after the crust cooled.

Asteroid Mining

Multiple types of asteroids have been identified as suitable for space mining. The three main types include the C-type, S-type and M-type asteroids.

C-type Asteroids

These asteroids have a high abundance of water in it. By using the available water from the asteroid rather than carrying it from our planet Earth, we could reduce costs greatly. C-type asteroids also contain a lot of organic carbon, phosphorus and other key ingredients for fertilizer. So, they could be used to grow food.

S-type Asteroids

These carry a little amount of water, but contain various metals that include nickel, cobalt and more costly metals such as gold, platinum and rhodium. A small S-type asteroid of size 10m is assumed to contain about 650,000 kg of metal with 50 kg of rare metals like platinum and gold.

M-type Asteroids

These asteroids are very rare. It contains up to 10 times more metal than S-type asteroids.

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How Asteroid Mining Will Work?

Surface mining

On some types of asteroids, material can be scraped off the surface using a scoop. There is fairly strong evidence that many asteroids consist of rubble piles. This would make this procedure possible.

Shaft mining

A mine can be dug into the asteroid and the minerals can be extracted through the shaft. This would require a very precise knowledge about the accuracy of astro location under the surface regolith. We would also need a transportation system to carry the desired minerals to the processing facility.

Magnetic rakes

Asteroids with a high amount of metal content may be covered in loose grains that can be simply scooped up using a magnet.


For volatile materials in extinct comets, heat can be used to melt and vaporize the matrix, and then extract the resulting vapor from that.

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Space Manufacturing

Space manufacturing is the production of manufactured goods in an environment outside a planetary atmosphere or ambience. This includes conditions of both microgravity and hard vacuum. Space manufacturing procedure could either be conducted in deep space or on space objects.

What are the Advantages of Manufacturing in Space?

1. The unique environment in space manufacturing permits for those industrial processes that cannot be readily reproduced on Earth due to gravity and the presence of an atmosphere.

2. Raw materials could be lifted to orbit from other bodies within the solar system. These raw materials can then be processed at a low cost compared to the cost of lifting materials into orbit from Earth.

3. Potentially hazardous processes can be performed in space with minimum amount of risk to the environment of Earth or other planets.

4. Items that are too large to launch on a rocket can be assembled in orbit for use.

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Barriers of Space Manufacturing

Heavy capitalization costs of assembling the mining and manufacturing facilities would be incurred in space. The most significant cost is overcoming the energy hurdle for lifting raw materials into orbit. There would also be a need to collect the necessary raw materials at as much minimum energy cost as possible.

Why Space Manufacturing is the Future of Industry?

1. The microgravity environment in space allows control of convection in liquids or gases and eliminates sedimentation. Diffusion becomes the primary or the most important means of material mixing.

This allows otherwise immiscible or unmixable materials to be intermixed. The environment in space manufacturing also allows enhanced growth of larger, high-quality crystals in solution.

2. Space vacuum allows the creation of extremely pure materials and objects by using the method of vapor deposition.

3. Surface tension causes liquids in microgravity to form perfectly round spheres that are very useful when perfect spheres of consistent sizes are needed.

4. Space can provide readily available extremes of heat and cold due to lack of an atmosphere which will not be available so easily in the atmosphere of Earth.

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