Roberto Gorelli points our attention at a recently published meteor related paper.
Meteoroid Stream Formation Due to the Extraction of Space Resources from Asteroids
By Logan Fladeland, Aaron C. Boley, and Michael Byers
Abstract: Asteroid mining is not necessarily a distant prospect. Building on the earlier mission Hayabusa, two spacecraft (Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx) have recently rendezvoused with near-Earth asteroids and will return samples to Earth. While there is significant science motivation for these missions, there are also resource interests. Space agencies and commercial entities are particularly interested in ices and water-bearing minerals that could be used to produce rocket fuel in deep space. The internationally coordinated roadmaps of major space agencies depend on utilizing the natural resources of such celestial bodies. Several companies have already created plans for intercepting and extracting water and minerals from near-Earth objects, as even a small asteroid could have high economic worth.
The low surface gravity of asteroids could make the release of mining waste and the subsequent formation of debris streams a consequence of asteroid mining. Proposed strategies that would contain material during extraction could be inefficient or could still require the purposeful jettison of mining waste to avoid the need to manage unwanted mass. Since all early mining targets are expected to be near-Earth asteroids due to their orbital accessibility, these streams could be Earth-crossing and create risks for Earth and lunar satellite populations, as well as humans and equipment on the lunar surface.
Using simulations, we explore the formation of mining debris streams by directly integrating particles released from four select asteroids. Radiation effects are taken into account, and a range of debris sizes are explored. The simulation results are used to investigate the timescales for debris stream formation, the sizes of the streams, and the meteoroid fluxes compared with sporadic meteoroids. We find that for prodigious mining activities resulting in the loss of a few percent of the asteroid’s mass or more, it is possible to produce streams that exceed the sporadic flux during stream crossing for some meteoroid sizes.
The results of these simulations are intended to highlight potential unintended consequences that could result from NewSpace activity, including for the future development of international space law. Although the 1967 Outer Space Treaty established that celestial bodies may not be subject to “national appropriation”, it did not directly address the extraction of space resources by commercial actors. Based on one of several possible interpretations of the Outer Space Treaty, in 2015 the United States enacted domestic legislation according its citizens the right to possess and sell space resources. Luxembourg established its own domestic legal framework in 2017 and provided financial incentives for space mining companies to incorporate in Luxembourg. Russia has recently announced that it is exploring similar legislation. These three countries might regulate their companies responsibly, but how will the international community respond if space mining companies incorporate in flag-of-convenience states? Will new international rules be adopted to prevent negative human-caused changes to the space environment?
You can download this paper for free: https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1911/1911.12840.pdf (10 pages).