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orbital gas collection

Posted by: Phis - Fri Dec 26, 2008 12:38 pm
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orbital gas collection 
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Post orbital gas collection   Posted on: Fri Dec 26, 2008 12:38 pm
I was wondering if anyone has any detail on the feasibility of collecting upper atmospheric gas (free or molecular hydrogen, or perhaps ions) using an orbital vehicle?

I seem to remember reading about a mission proposal to test some technology similar to this, but can't seem to find anything about it now...

It just seems like an interesting way to reduce the amount of consumables that needed to be launched. If a satellite could collect enough hydrogen to refuel a rocket, the potential delta-v available for deep space missions using plain-old chemical rockets would be considerable, and might even be usable around other atmosphere-holding planetoids, i.e. Titan.

Anyone have anything to add on this topic?


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Post    Posted on: Fri Dec 26, 2008 3:41 pm
Only a link to a thread regarding this from NewMars. Unfortunately I can't, as having two windows open at once would crash my internet (it's ONLY 8megabytes).

Most of the weight for a LOX/LH2 rocket comes from the LOX. That could be mined from the Moon, yes, but the Moon still has gravity.

Plus there's atmospheric drag to think about.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Dec 27, 2008 2:45 am
Yikes, 8 meg!!

Okay, even if a large portion of the launch weight is LOX, usable LOX in orbit could be almost doubled if you didn't need to have to bring the fuel with you as well. That must be worth something. If the gas-collector itself didn't cost billions to build (which it might of course) then this would be essentially free.

Atmospheric drag is an issue. Perhaps the satellite could use the gasses that it's gathering to reboost itself after an orbit. Though I seem to remember that using hydrogen as reaction mass in an ion drive has problems (hydrogen reacts with the engine materials or something). But we don't need efficiency, just picking up a few pounds per orbit might make it worth while. A high-eccentricity orbit, with a perigee low enough to dip into a denser atmospheric layer might make sense, perhaps giving time for the craft to process the collected gas into a usable and storable molecular hydrogen while traversing the rest of the orbit.

As for the moon, assuming that we get oxygen extraction going in the near future, the moon has a relative scarcity of hydrogen. Getting hydrogen from the upper atmosphere might be a solution.

I found this on the site you mentioned:
Scooping atmosphere to LEO
I don't know if this is the same thread.
There are a lot of far-fetched concepts there. They seem to take comet mining for granted, for instance.

I'm mainly focused on exospheric hydrogen because
1) least drag needed to counteract to maintain an orbit.
2) might be almost possible with current technologies.

Any way of gathering volatiles, outside of the gravity well of earth, could be of benefit. Even if it's just hydrogen gas, a sustainable collector (i.e. parts wont dissolve or break down for a few years at least) in a nice, convenient orbit, could provide fuel to any craft that needed it, and thereby reduce launch costs.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Dec 27, 2008 2:11 pm
If we use chemical rockets outside of reaching orbit.

We could use high Isp systems for rebooting the station.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Dec 28, 2008 3:17 pm
Regarding the collection of ionized gas(es): What about using reversed ion engines? Ion drive exhaust ions - might this be reversed to pull ions in instead of exhausting them? If yes then what about applying them to collect ionized gas from the jovian radiation belt where their density is very high?



Dipl.-Volkswirt (bdvb) Augustin (Political Economist)


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