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Asteroid Retrieval Missions Enabled by Invariant Manifold Dynamics (AsteroidRetrieval)
Start date: Jun 1, 2013, End date: Jun 13, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Exploiting the resources of near-Earth space has long been suggested as a means of lowering the costs of future space endeavours. Asteroids and comets, in particular, are generally agreed to be ideal resources, both in terms of their accessibility and their potential wealth. The intense survey efforts of the past decades have led to a growing catalogue of accessible near-Earth objects, but also to the realisation of the potential for exploitation and science of the myriad of objects that the Earth encounters along its orbit. This project aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of alternatives and opportunities for the future design of asteroid retrieval missions. This type of mission seeks to find the most accessible objects in the near Earth space, intercept with them and bring them back to Earth’s vicinity. Moving an entire object into an orbit in the vicinity of Earth entails an obvious engineering challenge, but may also allow a much more flexible mining phase in the Earth’s neighbourhood. Not to mention other advantages such as scientific return or possible future space tourism opportunities. Exploiting the dynamics of invariant manifolds, associated with periodic orbits near the Sun-Earth Lagrange points, may provide an excellent opportunity for low energy transport of asteroids. Thus, asteroid retrieval transfers will be sought from the continuum of low energy transfers enabled by invariant manifold dynamics, computed within the framework of the Circular Restricted Three Body Problem. The final outcome will be a series of robust methodologies and tools for the design of this particular type of mission, but also for other space applications that benefit from very low energy transfers. A catalogue of asteroid retrieval opportunities for known Near Earth Objects in the 2025+ time frame will be presented with defined energy transportation costs and preliminary design of the retriever spacecraft.
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