The International Space Station has sent out a spacecraft to test technology to be used by a Redmond, Wash.-based company that aims to mine asteroids for precious materials.
Planetary Resources hopes to validate core technologies, including avionics, control systems and software the company would use in future spacecraft venturing into the solar system to prospect for resource-rich asteroids.
The test craft — Arkyd 3 Reflight from Orbital ATK — was deployed on a 90-day mission. The A3R launched to the ISS onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 in April.
“Our philosophy is to test often, and if possible, to test in space,” said Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources. “By vertically integrating the system at our facility in Redmond, we are in constant control of every component, including the ones we purchase off the shelf and the others that we manufacture using 3D printers.”
Said Peter Diamandis, the company’s co-founder and co-chairman: “The successful deployment of the A3R is a significant milestone for Planetary Resources, as we forge a path toward prospecting resource-rich asteroids. Our team is developing the technology that will enable humanity to create an off-planet economy that will fundamentally change the way we live on Earth.”
Another demonstrator is scheduled to launch later this year.
“This key technology for determining resources on asteroids can also be applied towards monitoring and managing high-value resources on our home planet,” said Eric Anderson, who also is a co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resources. “All of our work at Planetary Resources is laying the foundation to better manage and increase humanity’s access to natural resources on our planet and in our solar system.”
Found in 2009 as Arkyd Astronautics, the company was rechristened as Planetary Resources in 2010 with the aim of conducting “low-cost robotic space exploration (of) commercially viable near-Earth asteroids.”
Early missions would involve the retrieval of raw materials from select asteroids including water and precious metals.