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"Space drill" designers want to bring raw material from asteroid to Earth

10.05.2017 Space, Innovation, Recommended

The "space drill" can be used to extract raw materials from asteroids, according to its creators from Scanway. Now they want to bring 1 kg of asteroid material to Earth. They give themselves time until 2040. They plan to cooperate with two other companies to achieve that.

On March 15th, the Rexus rocket carrying the device built by engineers from Wrocław was launched from the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, Sweden. It reached the altitude of 86 kilometres. After reaching the ceiling, the drill turned on and started drilling in a plaster block.


The experiment was performed in the REXUS/BEXUS program. This European Space Agency (ESA) project is conducted jointly with the Swedish National Space Council (SNSB) and the German Space Agency.


Constructors of the drill and the authors of the experiment are graduates of the Wroclaw University of Technology, founders of the start-up Scanway, operating in Wroclaw Technology Park.


Preliminary results of the experiment have proven that it will be possible to extract raw materials from asteroids, including rare metals, but also water that can be used for fuel production, the project leader Dorota Budzyń emphasised on Thursday at a press conference in Wrocław.


"It is in space that these minerals, rare metals are, and in the years to come they could be easier to extract there than on Earth. Our project has confirmed that such acquisition of raw materials from space is possible" - said Budzyń.


According to Scanway CEO Jędrzej Kowalewski, his company decided to join forces with two other companies dealing with space design and construction of Mars rovers to create joint project Delta-V. "Its goal is to bring one kilogram of asteroid raw material to Earth by 2040" - he said.


He explained that the Delta-V project is co-created by Wroclaw's Space is More and Kell Ideas, and that one of the first tasks will be to prepare the first Polish experimental rocket flights into space.


"We are also working on the first Wrocław satellite, which we called ScanSatOne. However, the most important project is the space drilling machine with the system of capturing the material" - added Michał Podgórski from Scanway.


As he emphasized, the primary objective is "to create Polish space technology from scratch".


During the March experiment in space, the engineers from Wrocław wanted to test the drilling process in microgravity and pressure in space. They wanted to know how the particles would behave; in which direction they would go; at what angle and with what speed. It was the first such attempt in the world.


"We have good news, because particles form a specific shape while drilling. This gives us the opportunity to design special equipment that will soon allow to extract materials drilled under microgravity conditions on asteroids" - said Kowalewski.


He remarked that the biggest surprise was that in space the drill was covered with experimental material very fast, which did not happen during tests on Earth.


"We are analysing it, together with AGH employees and mining experts. The most likely theory is that this is related to humidity in space. But this is good news, because our project assumed drilling in damp conditions" - said Kowalewski. (PAP)


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