Asteroids for mining and to make habitats: what are likely ways to move them?

Orion project nuclear explosions might be plausible, but would probably be expensive, use very heavy materials from Earth, and could be limited to the military.

Perhaps fusion power? Laser confinement fusion could perform a similar function to the micro-nukes of Orion. Or maybe another method, like powering a high-field ion drive?

Using the oxygen say from smelting iron oxide, or water could work. But that would likely be very valuable in its own right. And what would you burn, would hydrogen be obtainable?

So what about a railgun, using solar charging, and firing the least useful constituents for equal-and-opposite reaction impulses? Is that more likely than the other options?

All points in response appreciated, especially pointers to research and analysis of options. Am just trying to think through post-Mars space goals.

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    $\begingroup$ Speculative science-based questions like this might be better served on Worldbuilding. Read the tour there and phrase your question, and you should get some realistic answers. Take care to search before asking as it's likely this has been covered in past questions. $\endgroup$ – Snow Apr 26 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ Using available and proven technology, there is no way to move an asteroid larger than 100 m diameter. But if you select a small one below 2m, it is possible. The most difficult problem will be funding such a mission. By the way, smelting iron oxide does not release oxygen. You need something like hot carbon monoxide to reduce the oxide- $\endgroup$ – Uwe Apr 26 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand, do you want to move them, blow them up, or bring them to match Earth's heliocentric orbital velocity for capture or atmospheric entry. Your plan is not at all clear, and these may have substantially different answers. I think your question could benefit from some clarification and thinking-through, and if you can add a link to anything you're read on the topic for specific context, that may help to generate an answer you'll find helpful. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 27 at 3:51
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh: Orbital structures, and resources for Mars & Moon bases. This kind of thing nasa.gov/content/what-is-nasa-s-asteroid-redirect-mission $\endgroup$ – CriglCragl Apr 27 at 8:28

The rocket equation is valid not only for rockets but also for railguns built upon an asteroid. To achieve useful orbital speeds you need to shoot away more than about 70 to 80 % of the asteroid mass. A single stage will do, we don't have to fight the gravity of Earth.


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