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Asteroid Mining Logistics

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ScorpionOneNiner ScorpionOneNiner's picture
Asteroid Mining Logistics
(Working on some character background) tldr; What would you say are typical and extreme distances an asteroid miner would go from home? What is the limiting factor (egocast cost, far asteroids are 'owned' by someone else, fuel or cargo limits, other?) Here's my mental model: You are an @ living in the Jupiter Trojans. You and your buddies decide to go into asteroid mining. There is a glut of elements from your local asteroids, so you go someplace else. (For example, from Jup Tro to an unpopulated part of the Main Belt) Everyone is in a synth so no need for air/food/water mass. Find an asteroid, mine out the rare elements onto your ship, then for any bulk elements slap a beacon and a thruster on the rock and Hohmann it home. Since mining can be hard, lonely work you egocast home for vacation every so often. This seems a lot like offshore oil rigs, so I'm imagining a rig-like schedule. Say two weeks working, two weeks at home. Maybe one week in your mining morph, one week as an infomorph sleeving the ship or ghost riding a miner (concentrate on skywatch while other guy mines) Feels to me that egocast cost and jurisdiction disputes aka piracy would limit your distance. I'm trying to figure out what would be 'extreme' for a story: found an asteroid at the extreme limit of your range, no one else anywhere near, mining reveals secrets man not meant to know, one person survives and limps the ship back home. Also, I don't like nova crab aesthetics. But even in freefall you occasionally need big strength to handle inertia of heavy masses, which rules out the default 0g-adapted synths. Any morph suggestions? My best thought right now is start from a Daitya with freefall propulsion for stats, but not sure what I want it to look like. (Uh, meaning the morph is not a Daitya, doesn't resemble a Daitya, looks more 0g adapted, but uses Daitya stats for aptitude, enhancement and the like)
How can you challenge a perfect immortal machine?
DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
Could you define what you
Could you define what you mean by 0g adapted morphs? I'm thinking that if you slap a rocket pack and magnetic systems to any synthmorph, that would be enough to make them functional in space. Those are not very expensive. I imagine that the bulk of the mining work will be done by Dwarfs (robots). They are literally built for that kind of work. Actual people might not go outside that often. Farcasting home for vacation? Maybe. Farcasting is expensive; I mean [Expensive] expensive. However, I won't rule out the possibility that its part of someone's contract. If home doesn't get a lot of data traffic, then maybe the price could be lower. However, if we are talking about a mix of synthmorph and infomorph crew, then why can't some family and friends come with the crew? Include some servers with good simulations and the crew might not worry about going home because he brought a bit of home with him.
MrWigggles MrWigggles's picture
Is this as a Micro Corp, or
Is this as a Micro Corp, or as a contract with the PC? If its the PC then the rocks are largely untended as they get moved out closer to Mars. Probably some parking orbit at one of the Lerange points. Then you probably doing the job, in concert with a fleet of bots as well. You're probably an indentured. So what family and vacation? If its a Micro Corp, then you're not really moving the rock all that much. At most maybe you'll move to a parking orbit to the nearest largest gravity body. If its Neptune, then you move it to one of its L points, and try not to piss off the Brinkers. You dont really need to be a synth, unless you're doing the mining yourself. Even then, eh. Whatever you're comfortable with. And if this is the Case, then you're mining for a hab. You're supplementing its botnet of miners, that scour hundreds of cubic miles for materiel to support the hab. And you're getting paid in social standing of the hab. In which case, you do it as long as you want and as often as you want. Depending on how your anarch hab, internally organizes. So the distance limitation, would be limited by how long it takes to deliver the materials to the hab. This is kinda arbitrary. You want a steady supply of err supplies. So the cubic area that can be surveyed and exploited can steadily increase to some limit where it stops being worthwhile and the hab needs to be abandon. Most of the habitats in the outer rim, are pretty new, and the further the newer they get. So they probably arent exploiting that much cubic miles around them.
Trappedinwikipedia Trappedinwikipedia's picture
You don't lose a lot by
You don't lose a lot by bringing suited biomorphs, as life support is largely lossless, and the vast majority of your mission payload by mass will be fuel and processed asteroid, so synths aren't a requirement. Helpful, but you can use biomorphs as well. As for the method, making a pseudo-Cole Bubble for on site processing would make sense for a lot of smaller rocks. You capture the asteroid in a bubble, and melt the whole thing down for local processing and extraction. This uses a lot of power, but you can pump the hundreds of MW/GW of waste heat your reactor puts off into the asteroid to help with this (and you can't do anything else with that power), and then separate and process each element and compound separately. This is likely a fairly boring job. You sit onboard a ship loaded with cargo holds and ore processors, waiting for the asteroid you have in the oven to cook. You likely scatter a few defense platforms around to help deter claim jumpers, but mostly, you monitor the process and wait. It makes a lot of sense to rotate crew oil rig style, because working this will be a lot like working a rig. Boring, until it isn't, and then very exciting for brief scary periods. For a larger asteroid, you might break it come into pieces and bubble each one separately. Mechanical mining should be avoided if it can IMO, because its complicated in zero g, and all the powder will be hard to deal with and is waste. Asteroids tend to be super "flakey" and easy to break up and damage from what little we know, but largely metallic ones are likely stronger, but still pretty fragile.
ScorpionOneNiner ScorpionOneNiner's picture
For a lot of the comments,
For a lot of the comments, dang you whippersnappers for spoiling my imagination with your practicality! :grin: A lot of the choices are just what I wanted for my story, I'm okay with unusual or less-efficient as long as they aren't bad bad. That explains the no-biomorphs (although, you can recycle 100% but still need to carry initial food feedstock, and oxygen) and the six person population (also Nautiloid is what I was thinking for the 'mining ship') Re farcasting. That was one of my big questions. This group is providing a useful somewhat specialized service for an autonomist hab. But Farcasting is energy-intensive. So I'm not sure what a good balance is between transmit distance, extra utility from better mining location, and how often people can cast back and forth. For mining, I was thinking either coordinating robot miners, using nanite swarms that follow a seam of useful element, bubble & heat, other. Haven't decided yet. Debated 'our only mining tools are morphs', but that seems silly for people who were professional miners pre-Fall. Microcorp or PC - these are autonomists, some of those 'rebelling asteroid miners' from the history, who somehow ended up in the Jupiter Trojans. And why they go past those 'cubic miles' is to look for materials you can't get nearby (maybe 99.9% of all local asteroids are c-type). Hence why I'm wondering how far afield is too far to bring rare material back, and how far before it is safer to trade rocks instead.
DivineWrath wrote:
Could you define what you mean by 0g adapted morphs? I'm thinking that if you slap a rocket pack and magnetic systems to any synthmorph, that would be enough to make them functional in space. Those are not very expensive.
Morphs that are close to what I want. Daitya could work, just needs locomotion, but is a bit boring. Novacrab is in the same boat. Flying squid pod is an example of a morph that works in 0g, but not in vacuum (as specced in the book, before adding any mods). Arachnoid, similar issue as flying squid. Looks like I was over-focusing on finding an off-the-rack morph with all that. Sounds like better to mod in the propulsion. Maybe a squid synth with a rocket. Or daitya ditto, with a bod sculpt. I like squid better than spider, crab, or blocky human, but not 100% sold on it. Trying to think of a body type/shape that would be more... interesting/appealing?... to be in. Hmm. Maybe go snake and mod a slitheroid. Lots of useful info here. Thanks.
How can you challenge a perfect immortal machine?
MrWigggles MrWigggles's picture
I think the only real
I think the only real advantage that a synth gives over a bio for mining, is that the equipment cab be part of your morph. Even with that, I dont know how much of an advantage that really is. Space travel in EP, is pretty fantastic. The additional mass, and volume needed for bio, is trivial. Probably only matter when you're trying to transport a lot them, for a long time.
SquireNed SquireNed's picture
Keep in mind that unless you
Keep in mind that unless you have extensively modified your biomorph, you're going to have problems with vacuum. Even though it is possible with proper recycling and discipline to keep a biomorph indefinitely operational, that's difficult and can take some time. In theory you also have g-forces in acceleration/deceleration, if you're willing/able to burn enough fuel to hit very high acceleration rates. It's possible as well that synthmorphs in particular designs could have less mass and therefore better use of propellant than biomorphs: keep in mind that maneuvering in a microgravity vacuum requires reaction mass, and the amount of reaction mass that you need is relative to your morph's mass. If a twenty kilogram humanoid synthmorph can contain as much reaction mass inside its form as a hundred kilogram biomorph after that biomorph accounts for the necessary modifications/gear to survive vacuum and maneuver in microgravity, that humanoid synthmorph will have a good amount of fuel. Now, if you're doing everything from a spacecraft, this makes less of a difference, but even then being able to operate without having a pressurized cabin will be a plus for a synthmorph over a standard biomorph. The best solution is to actually be a spaceship with mining equipment, maybe with a few maintenance drones that can be jammed.
BalazarLightson BalazarLightson's picture
Digital Entertainment Options
Why do a potentially energy intense egocast home and risks of resleaving when your employer provides an extensive XP library for your use? What about that new Wild West sim-world they have provided for staff entertainment? Or do you prefer the swashbucking genre? I imagine like a lot of Martime Vessels and Antarctic Stations, boardgames and RPG's might take up quite a bit of time. Someone else will be working on their novel, hoping to hit it big and earn their way out of the grind. As for sexual gratification, a handful of Pleasure-Pods could also be on hand for recreational use by crew, sliding into the sock and having a bit of fun. Just a handful of pods could potential service a crew of several hundred Synthetic crew, even more if the crew were behavior modified first to require less such RnR than normal. Or maybe that could be all handled in sims. Perhaps look to the Refineray the Nostromo was pushing in Aliens for ideas. Nostromo is a big ass tug used to push a refinery around. The ship moves payloads, but the refinery is a payload that stays put until it needs to move. Probably uses a small fleet of robotic craft to collect asteroids to feed into the refinery. When they are nearing capacity another tug is dispatched in time to pick it up. It might be on active duty in one location for several years, maneuvering with smaller thrusters, and waiting for a tugs big thrusters when it needs to move. Within one solar system it probably spits out blocks of various matter to be shipped off via mass driver at regular intervals, with signalling and navigation beacons and small thrusters attatched. This eliminates the need for regular cargo pick ups. I also want ask if you've seen the movie Moon at all yet? If not, it's worth a watch for a great EP styled storyline.
Trappedinwikipedia Trappedinwikipedia's picture
Egocasting is going to be
Egocasting is going to be really cheap energy-wise for a spaceship, if you're in radio contact with anyone, you can egocast. You might not want to, because it might not be as well secured, but you could. The ship might not have the ability to N-cast data (it probably does though), but you only need that for really long egocasts. As for the bio/synth tradeoff, I really don't think it makes much of a difference. If you're bringing bodies along (shells, synths, or biomorphs), there will not be much of a difference in mass between the modules, and all modules will be a very insignificant part of the total payload. A generously sized 400 ton (The total mass of the completed ISS, but this module would have better technology, and no power generation in its mass budget), you can have a crew of a couple dozen biomorphs. 400 tons is insignificant when you're carrying a thousand tons of remass and much more than that in ore. Acceleration will be really really low. Centigees for an unloaded ship would be my guess, and much less than that when full. Fuel on-board morphs also seems like an unimportant difference to me, as most EVA is likely to be handled with smart anchors. A mixed bio/synth/info crew is likely ideal. Biomorphs are most comfortable to be in, and generally have better internals than anything else. Synthmorphs like Couriers, Nautiloids, and Sundiver-ish morphs would be helpful, but most people probably won't want to live in them indefinitely. Infomorphs think fast, but can't get eyes or hands on to anything personally. of course, who's doing this would make a big difference. A mining mission from Illumarin, or the Lizards is unlikely to have a pressurized, or potentially even internal cabin, while a mission or operation from Glitch is likely purely crewed by infomorphs. Vacuum pods are probably very common for corporate mines. Anarchists likely use what they have on hand, which probably means more vacuum-capable pods and biomorphs than synths, thanks to the rarity of metals in the outer system, Once they have a metallic asteroid they can use anything they want though. I would expect crews to be egocasted in and out, though probably with a long duty rotation (3 months?). I think the idea of an extractor/refiner which stays on station indefinitely and moves from rock to rock makes sense. You'd supply it with fuel and other consumables with the same tankers which pick up what it processes, and the crews egocast in and out. If nothing goes extremely, extremely wrong, the extractor ship never needs to come back to a port. I don't think using mass drivers is a very good idea in space as uncontrolled as the Main Belt. It wouldn't be super hard for claim jumpers or pirates to intercept the blocks and steal them without much incident. Along shorter distances or in more controlled places it would be ok, but launching 10,000 tons of iron across the whole main belt means trouble of one kind or another. Interplanetary Transport Networks are also slow as hell and circuitous, which might be a problem if you need to get the ore somewhere fast (you probably don't though), or if it leads through space controlled by someone who doesn't like you. I envision the extractor/refiner working on a single asteroid at a time, as the distances between them are huge. The crew would probably be in the 5-20 ego range, generally with the normal deluge of ALI assistance. I think they would rotate in and out fairly frequently because even with transhuman entertainment, you're still in the middle of nowhere with no-one to talk to besides the rest of the crew. It's a lot like being cooped up in a small sailing ship crossing the atlantic, extremely isolating. Non-real time messages are still possible with the rest of the system, but that must be very jarring for most transhumans. The Lizards probably handle it fine though. I have seen Moon, it's pretty great.