A prospecting plan is presented to assay near Earth objects (NEO) for their potential to yield rocket fuel. The plan calls out small satellites as the near-term means to achieve low cost surveys and deep subsurface sampling of NEO composition. The water bearing classes of NEO to be considered are limited to those accessible in short time and with small thrusters. These include the water bearing clay objects (phylosilicates) at nearly trivial distances from Earth, and the recently identified water ice objects such as comet ([number sign]4015) 1979 VA. These objects are evaluated as small satellite prospecting and assay vehicle targets.
The 1992 discovery of a water-ice, near-Earth object (NEO) in the space near Earth is evaluated as a source of rocket fuel and life support materials for Earth orbit use. Nuclear thermal rockets using steam propellant are evaluated and suggested. The space geological formation containing such water-rich NEO's is described. An architecture couples near-Earth object fuels (neo-fuel) extraction with use in Earth orbits. Preliminary mass payback analyses show that space tanker systems fueled from space can return in excess of 100 times their launched mass from the NEO, per trip. Preliminary cost estimates indicate neo-fuel costs at Earth orbit can be 3 orders of magnitude below today's cost. A suggested resource verification plan is presented.