Passive Sorting of Asteroid Material Using Solar Radiation Pressure

Research paper by Daniel García Yárnoz, Joan-Pau Sanchez, Colin R. McInnes

Indexed on: 22 Jan '14Published on: 22 Jan '14Published in: Mathematics - Dynamical Systems


Understanding dust dynamics in the vicinity of asteroids is key for future science missions and, in the long-term, for asteroid exploitation. This paper analyzes the feasibility of manipulating asteroid material by means of solar radiation pressure. A novel method is proposed for passively sorting material as a function of its grain size or density, where solar radiation pressure is used as a passive in-situ "mass spectrometer". A simplified analysis shows that in principle this method allows an effective sorting of regolith material. This could have immediate applications for a sample return mission, and for industrial scale in-situ resource utilization to separate and concentrate regolith according to particle size or composition.