Planetary Resources, formerly known as Arkyd Astronautics, is a billionaire-backed asteroid-mining company. Planetary Resources wants to mine asteroids for their sweet, sweet minerals and make a business out of it. Recently, we have come to know that the company plans to launch its first satellites in 2014.
Planetary Resources plans to send a set of tiny “cubesats” (cubesat are also called Arkyd-3 satellite) to Earth orbit in early 2014 in order to test its first line of asteroid-prospecting spacecraft. The measurement of cubesats will be 12 inches x 4 inches x 4 inches (30 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm).
The “Arkyd-3” satellites will test out technologies for Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-100 scouts, which the firm hopes to launch to low-Earth orbit on asteroid-hunting missions in 2015. A series of other robotic probes beyond the 33-pound (15 kilograms) Arkyd-100 will investigate near-Earth asteroids.
Chris Voorhees, Planetary Resources’ vice president of spacecraft development, said Wednesday, April 24 during a Google+ Hangout event, “Our belief and our philosophy is that the best testbed is space itself. Despite the fact that we’re a deep-space company, we’re going to use Earth orbit as much as possible. For us, it’s a valuable learning experience, and that’s what we plan on doing one year hence.”
After going to space, the cubesats will mine near-Earth asteroids for resources such as precious metals and water. Sourcing water in space will make space travel much cheaper and more efficient. Currently it costs about $10,000 to launch 1 liter (0.26 gallons) of water to low-Earth orbit. By selling the precious metals or water collected from space, Planetary Resources intends to generate a healthy profit for itself.