Impulsive and low-thrust optimal trajectories for asteroid mining

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Near – Earth Asteroids (NEA’s) are celestial bodies which have ended up falling into orbits in the vicinity of the Earth due to the gravitational interactions these bodies have undergone in the past. As a result, they have posed a new threat to human existence since the risk of collision between the Earth and one of these bodies is certainly possible. Nevertheless, NEA’s have also presented humanity with the opportunity of redefining its frontiers and changing the way in which the economical and development systemcan be conceived, since studies have suggested that these bodies are rich in natural resources such as water and precious metals. As a result, NEA’s have become attractive targets for miningmissions. For this operations to be carried out the first step is performing a preliminary study of the trajectories that could take a mission to the asteroid’s surface and return it back to Earth once the desired materials have been extracted. To that end, this thesis addresses the determination of optimal trajectories towards ten asteroids selected for the purpose, which include: Ryugu, 1989ML, Nereus, Didymos, 2011 UW158, Anteros, 2001 CC21, 1992 TC, 2001 SG10 and 2002 DO3. Results have been obtained for both, chemical propulsion systems and ion engines. Initially, a first study was carried out to determine the pork-chop plots characterizing each of the transfers and the mission with minimum ¢V (including outbound and inbound flights) was analyzed. Then, with the objective of optimizing the whole mission, the Non-dominated Sorting Genetic AlgorithmII (NSGA-II) was used so as to broaden the trajectory possibilities and performa study which also accounted for economical and time factors.With the use of NSGA-II, multi-revolution transfers as well as gravity assist maneuvers around Venus and Mars have been studied. In addition, multi-revolution trajectories using low-thrust were also considered. The results presented in this thesis show the launching opportunities as well as the optimized asteroid mining missions for both type of propulsion methods being considered. In addition, a full development and analysis of the obtained values is carried out for asteroids Ryugu and Didymos.
Genetic Algorithm, Asteroids, Astronomy, Space trajectories
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