Space Mining Conference Q&A
1. Does the space mining industry need a speculative market to truly fulfil itself?
The space mining industry absolutely needs a market. Right now, all such markets are speculative to an extent. My talk will provide some detail about propellant markets.
2. Will low Lunar gravity limit time for long-term habitation on the Moon?
There isn’t a known answer to this question, as there is no significant data to inform it — yet. There is plenty of data to indicate that microgravity is deleterious to human biology, but there is not a facility yet (other than the Moon itself) to permit the necessary research at 1/6th Earth’s gravity.
3. Could you please share some resources for project management and systems engineering. Particularly for systems engineering. (Frameworks, books, courses +). @Daniel Sax. Thank you very much!
The NASA Systems Engineering Handbook is a comprehensive, if heavy-handed reference: https://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/nasa-systems-engineering-handbook
https://www.incose.org/ is another good source for general systems engineering references.
4. Hello! Thank you for this amazing opportunity, I’m a chemical engineering student and I’m super passionate about space exploration. I'm wondering if chemical engineers can contribute to this industry? If yes, how?
It is safe to say this industry will require any and all types of engineers, including chemical engineers.
5. How do you plan on assuring you are not appropriating territory when you create these permanent installations
Likely a similar answer to the allocation of GEO slots (time bound, user has to actively use the allocation).
6. What percentage of space debris are metal that will stick to metals? @Gary Calnan
The main materials we are considering are Aluminum, Stainless Steel, and Titanium as these are the most frequently used metals. Aluminum is not magnetic, stainless steel depends on the type, titanium is only weakly magnetic
7. @Gary, how are you approaching the dual-use concerns related to your removal CONOP?
At the moment, we are only focused on the metal processing tech which is not dual use, at least so far. We will work with partners who develop cutting robotics, and vehicles, and propulsion systems. All of these are either definitely or probably dual use.
8. Do you envision space mining and space travel companies partnering in the future, or do you see them as totally separate
Space mining will enable space travel companies to scale. Mining and therefore supply outside of earth’s gravity is the gating factor in many ways.
9. Any thoughts about bringing back unknown “hitch-hikers” such as microbes from the surface of the moon or other locations
Same way we protect satellites in Earth orbit. For US assets, this is one of the stated purposes for the US Space Force. Keep space safe for commerce
10. On a economic question How will the West compete with the Command and control economic system of China ,and their system of stealing corporate IPs and Tech Or if there is a co-op agreement to keep IPs and Tech safe theft by the CCP
If you know the answer to this question, you’re probably ahead of anybody outside of China. In the US, this is attempting to be addressed by hard restrictions on collaboration with anyone in China, and also through recommendations to follow strong/best practices in cybersecurity.
Ref: The Wolf Amendment - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_Amendmen
11. What are the circles between the orbits?
They represent “transfer orbits” which are an orbit themselves, intersecting the source and destination orbits.
12. Moon has a history of asteroids frequently hitting its lunar surface(due to a lack of a thick atmosphere; which acts as a protective shield in case of earth), how do you tackle asteroid impacts on the lunar surface, and causing damage(both to the lunar base and future astronauts)
The meteoroid flux is low, and while impact events are rare, this is probably a risk worth monitoring. Larger objects can be detected via existing surveys, but smaller objects are difficult to detect, and as you point out, the Moon has no atmosphere to mitigate the energy of the impactor. Habitat contraction would likely be built to survive small impactors.
Having said all of this, I’m not aware of any Lunar surface activity detecting “live” impacts, although there’s been a few observed events across many years and decades.
13. What is the EML?
Earth-Moon Lagrangian points: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrange_point
14. George, what measures are available to protect your storage/protection assets from human actors
Same way we protect satellites in Earth orbit. For US assets, this is one of the stated purposes for the US Space Force. Keep space safe for commerce.
15. How would you transport resources from the extraction site (Near a crater) to a rocket for refuelling on the lunar surface? Which would be more efficient, rover vehicles or piping?
In my architecture, the launch/landing facility is adjacent to the production facility.
16. Question for Mr. Sowers: Will the water/fuel be processed on the surface or in lunar orbit? I couldn’t tell based on the image in the last slide. Thank you.
If you know you want LO2/LH2, it makes more sense to process on the lunar surface. if you're not sure how much water versus LO2/LH2, then maybe move water to L1 and process it on demand.
17. How do we enforce law in space?
One answer to this is by enforcing compliance in the jurisdiction where the companies operate (here on Earth). The authorities don’t need to show up “to space” to enforce activities, they just need to show up to your mission control - at least presently. Further control is exerted through a variety of licensing processes, where your plans and intentions are reviewed in detail, with an amount of monitoring and verification implemented after deployment of your activity to space
18. My take is that it vasty easier to store and ship water than LO2/LH so it makes more sense to ship water and process in orbit and only process the LO2/LH on the surface that you intend to use for surface operations and launch from the Moon.
Some counter points: 1) you need LO2/LH2 on the surface to fuel outbound tankers. 2) Propellant is usually in the mass ratio 5.5 to one versus 8 to one for water so you will be moving a lot of excess oxygen. 3) The cold of the PSR is helpful in liquefaction and storage. Ultimately, the question will be answered by economics. there will likely be some of each
19. What about the Artemis Accords?
I hope I addressed the Artemis Accords in my presentation. The 11 or 12 states parties to the Accords (creeping up on the Moon Agreement in numbers) will be establishing lunar norms.
20. Do you believe Custom or a new Treaty would be more helpful for outlining the needs/laws of resource utilization in Space?
If I had my way, state custom & national space legislation, matched with a modest, non-binding principles statement developed within the machinery of the UN (ie at COPUOS).
21. How likely do you think it is for the Moon agreement to be changed in the future? What do you think it should be updated to?
I don’t think it will be changed or updated. Perhaps some elements will inspire whatever comes next
22. How are the mining companies on Earth reacting to the prospect of extraterrestrial mining? With a specific angle on the policy/lobbying side of things. I guess, this may depend on a company by company (interests) basis
My experience is that the companies themselves are ambivalent about space mining at present. Many are mis-informed about the prospect of space resources being a competitive source to terrestrial resource demands, which is a common misconception — space resources are most valuable for use IN SPACE.
That said, many innovators, technologies, and (in my experience) the younger individuals in the traditional mining workforce are excited about the prospect of the developing space resource industry.
23. You don't mention China.. Considering their activities in the South China Sea that are disputed.. and that they are already landed on outer space objects
That’s the elephant in the room. No treaty will work without them
24. What competitive advantages do you see for space travel startups that are just now entering the space? What strengths would our space travel startups have over SpaceX / Virgin Galactic? This is a common question we receive from investor.
This is a question that you must answer for your own business. How can you out-compete SpaceX/Virgin Galactic (and 100 others)? If you are not competing with them, how are you complementary? How can you serve a market that they are currently under-serving? Where do you see customers that current providers do not
25. Thanks Chris! These are great points, and some of them are addressed in our business model. I’m curious what markets you see SpaceX/Virgin Galactic are underserving
I think the launch market is saturated, and you would be better served to create a business which capitalizes on and leverages a thriving, competitive launch market. It’s what the rocket delivers into space that creates the value
26. Wars are fought and won with logistics. Sure, strategy and tactics help... but if you can't show up to the fight, then what's the point?? Are any of the companies in attendance aggressively pursuing veterans to fill out their personnel needs? If not, what are your barriers? I suggest that most veterans have more to offer each company planning for operations in space than most any other candidates
Agreed - I learned a lot from the principles shared in Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1148912.Corps_Busines
27. Is there a plan to scan the asteroids and comets for microbial life? (Source: Research conducted by Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe)
This is something probably best done by direct sampling, and the Japanese Hayabusa-II mission and NASA OSIRIS-REx missions both have samples from C-type asteroids to explore this possibility. (Spoiler, they’re unlikely to find anything).
28. @Joel Sercel: when would your Worker Bees be available for rides to the Moon? What size of payloads would they be able to carry
We are taking orders now for Worker Bee 1 missions in LOE. Worker Bee 3 will be several years out, probably 2026 for cislunar operations. Worker Bee 3 will carry 10,000 kg to lunar orbit.
29. Are there alternative energy sources other than solar panels
The energy density of nuclear power (in its various forms) is an obvious solution, with its attendant problems. Here is one company working on a solution: https://usnc.com/space
30. I think the Chelyabinsk meteor impact was missed —> Because the first rock burnt up in the atmosphere. But the one that blasted and caused disruption/injuries was the one following the first rock. The detection systems missed this rock that was following the first one. Does your system monitor such occurrences? @Mr. Martin Elvis Thank you.
The Chelyabinsk meteor was a challenge for Earth-surface telescopic surveys to detect. The space systems help close this gap in observability.
31. Are we just finding ways to mine resources in space, just so we canmine resources in space - what is the REAL market?
This is the challenge with today’s space mining market. It is a near-certain future market, and most economic activity IN SPACE is a direct or at least indirect consumer of it. Space resources provide the ability to SCALE most economic activity in space. Currently, that type of economic activity is nascent.