Mining in space is a hotly talked about topic in the space community, especially with the recent passing of a bill by the House of Representatives that basically allows space mining companies to keep whatever space junk they dig up. Thus, of course, people are already thinking about the possible negative impacts of space mining.
Dust produced by space mining of space junk could endanger satellites.
One likely impact would be dust emissions, which could be bad news for satellites in Earth orbit as well as future launches. NASA has a plan to take a huge, multi-ton boulder from an asteroid and put it in our moon’s orbit in order to drill it, but this would not cause much risk to earth-orbit satellites since it’s quite far and a relatively small-scale, one-time operation. The Asteroid Redirect Mission, or ARM, is supposed to help NASA advance its technology and gain spaceflight experience for the manned mission to Mars it has planned for the 2030s.
Large-scale asteroid mining could be risky according to simulation statistics.
It’s been estimated that as much as five percent of debris caused by space mining would end up in earth orbit, in places with high satellite density. The same study that calculated that also took a look at what would happen if an asteroid five meters across or larger would completely be broken up in earth orbit. It found that the risk to satellites would be increased by over 30 percent. The satellites would collide with the pieces at high velocities and get damaged or destroyed immediately in the worst possible case.
Relocating an asteroid to earth orbit for mining still deserves a chance.
Moving an asteroid into geosynchronous orbit for mining purposes is realistic and could be viable, but requires more study in order to prevent danger to satellites or other risks. The upcoming space gold, silver, platinum, and titanium rushes will certainly put a lot of small chunks of rock into space, so methods to keep space dust away and protect Earth-orbit satellites from debris must be devised and implemented.