Using factories based in space, and feedstocks from asteroids near Earth and/or the Moon, products would include:
large structures for mounting and linking multiple satellites and giant antennas ("orbital antenna farms") for enhanced wireless communications on Earth which no present-day or currently planned satellite communications provider could compete with -- not even Teledesic and Iridium
basic space station and habitat building blocks (why blast it all up from Earth?)
industrial facilities for export of services and goods to Earth economies (see the "Products and services " section)
solar power plants to beam clean electrical energy to consumers on Earth by safe radio beam
fuel propellants (the gas stations in space) to support all kinds of next generation satellite in-space services, products and infrastructure ? and including Teledesic-like constellations
"domestic in-space" products such as large corporate space settlements
Asteroids and their makeup...
"Iron meteorites", also called "irons", are usually just one big blob of iron-nickel (Fe-Ni) metal, as if it came from a industrial refinery without shaping. The alloy ranges from 5% to 62% nickel from meteorite to meteorite, with an average of 10% nickel. Cobalt averages about 0.5%, and other metals such as the platinum group metals, gallium, and germanium are dissolved in the Fe-Ni metal. (Fe is the chemical symbol for iron.) While most "irons" are pure or nearly pure metal, the technical definition of an "iron" includes metal meteorites with up to 30% mineral inclusions such as sulfides, metal oxides and silicates. The irons represent the cores of former planetoids.
"Stony irons" consist of mixtures of Fe-Ni metal of between 30% and 70% along with mixtures of various silicates and other minerals. The Fe-Ni metal can be present as chunks, pebbles and granules. Stony irons resemble the outer cores or mantles of planetoids or else a mix of materials due to a collision.
"Achondrites" are silicate rich meteorites apparently formed by crustal igneous (i.e., molten or volcanic) activity in their parent bodies, and consist of a broad range of minerals. Achondrites are the result of gravitational differentiation in relatively large bodies by melting and gravitational separation of mineral phases, and most resemble the Earth's crust. Different types of achondrites average between 0 and 4% free Fe-Ni granules.
"Chondrites" probably came from parent bodies that were too small to undergo a large degree of gravitational differentiation, or are collision ejecta from less than catastrophic collisions of slightly differentiated bodies. Chondrites are named after the tiny pellets of rock called "chondrules" embedded in them, a result of a kind of chemical fractionation unique to small bodies. If you were walking around in a field and saw a chondrite, it would be much more recognizable as being of non-terrestrial origin than the above achondrites.
Processing minerals, once extracted
Instead of covering lunar mineral processing in the lunar section, it is better to cover it in an industrial section because it can be applied to processing asteroidal minerals as well.
On the other hand, because asteroidal material has uniquenesses, i.e., free nickel iron metal and precious metals, which cannot apply to lunar materials, the simple processing of asteroidal materials with simple crushers, magnets and ovens was discussed in the section on asteroidal material. However, advanced processing of asteroidal minerals for other things besides free metals and volatiles was not discussed there, since it overlaps with lunar materials processing.
§ 4.2.1 Magnetic separation of free nickel-iron metal
§ 4.2.2 Thermal extraction of volatiles
§ 4.2.3 Separating minerals by electrostatic beneficiation
§ 4.2.4 Separating minerals by vibration or floatation
§ 4.2.5 Separating minerals by electrophoresis
If anyone has additional URLs for this type of information, please post. I think this an awesome subject.
Edited by BigDaddy_GFS, 18 December 2006 - 10:43 PM.