Technology

Planetary Resources Inc: Tech Billionaires Announce Arkyd Mission, Asteroid Mining

In Seattle, XPrize founder and Planetary Resources co-chair Peter Diamandis took the stage today at 10:30 a.m. PT. Tech billionaires announced a planned line of telescopes and asteroid mining spacecraft called Arkyd. “We are not just a paper company,” said founder Peter Diamandis. The Arkyd line of telescopes and craft will hunt for waters and precious metals in space and it begins soon, he said. Here is a rendering of its Arkyd Series 300 Interceptor craft.


Planetary Resources Inc. Co-Founder Eric Anderson in Seattle at the press conference going on now: Todd Townsend

The live stream for the Planetary Resources Inc. announcement is going on now.

In Seattle, XPrize founder and Planetary Resources co-chair Peter Diamandis took the stage at 10:30 a.m. Tech billionaires announced a planned line of telescopes and asteroid mining spacecraft called Arkyd. “We are not just a paper company,” said founder Peter Diamandis. The Arkyd line of telescopes and craft to hunt for waters and precious metals in space begins soon, he said.

The first step will be the Arkyd Series 100 — LEO space telescope It is the first commercial space telescope, Diamandis says, accessible to the average world system. It is the first of the Arkyd series of telescopes and spaceships Planetary Resources Inc. announced today.

The goal of the new company, backed by director James Cameron and such tech billionaires as Google’s Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, is to “accelerate and push development of various types of inexpensive robotic spacecraft that will extend into many uses within the Solar System.”

The first goal of the ambitious enterprise is to find water in space — and precious metals on the thousands of asteroids known in our Solar System.

On just released materials, the Arkyd Series 100 Leo Space telescope is described as: Leo is the first private space telescope and a stepping-stone to near-Earth asteroids. This space telescope, utilized in low Earth orbit, represents the next milestone on our technology development roadmap.

At Planetary Resources, we are committed to a disciplined approach of fielding systems simple enough to be designed, manufactured, tested and integrated by a small team, yet robust enough to get the job done. Leo will demonstrate that critical capability in Earth orbit. The resulting capability of Leo, at an unprecedented low price, empowers a new community to intimately participate in space-based remote sensing and the further exploration of the cosmos.

The Arkyd Series 200 Space Interceptor is the cornerstone of the mission, said veteran NASA astronaut and Planetary Resources co-founder Tom Jones. “Of the asteroids 150 meters and larget, there are about 1500 near enough for a human to go to within six months,” Anderson told press at the space museum in Seattle where the live announcement is being held now. The robotic spacecraft “will go much further than that.”

The Arkyd Series 200 Space Interceptor is pictured below.

In materials, Planetary Resources Inc. describes the Interceptor as:

Adding propulsion capabilities and additional scientific instrumentation to the Leo Space Telescope enables an Earth-crossing asteroid Interceptor mission. Several undiscovered asteroids are seen for the first time as they routinely cross through Earth’s neighborhood. By hitching a ride with a launched satellite headed for a geostationary orbit, Interceptor will be well positioned to fly-by and collect data on these new targets of opportunity.

Two or more Interceptors can work together as a team to potentially identify, track and fly-by the asteroids that travel between the Earth and our Moon. The closest encounters may result in a planned spacecraft “intercept,” providing the highest-resolution data, similar to how government efforts first explored the Moon with the Ranger missions (1961-65) and later with the Deep Impact mission at Comet 9P/Tempel (2005). These Interceptor missions will allow Planetary Resources to quickly acquire data on several near-Earth asteroids.

Next up is the Arkyd Series 300 Interceptor Prospector, which is the next step toward the actual mining mission.

So the mission around finding and exploiting space — particularly, asteroid — resources — will focus especially on “water-rich” asteroids. Finding water in space is far cheaper than bringing it up. “Access to water and other life-supporting volatiles in space provides hydration, breathable air, radiation shielding and even manufacturing capabilities. Water’s elements, hydrogen and oxygen, can also be used to formulate rocket fuel. Using the resources of space – to explore space – will enable the large-scale exploration of the Solar System,” execs said.

Fuel creation, in the end, is the heart of mission. And that’s not it. The firm aims to “lead the creation of critical in-situ extraction and processing technologies” for asteroidal rare metals using low-cost “deep space” robotic explorers, as shown above. This will, execs said, be an “enabling capability for the sustainable development of space.”

About the author

Todd Townsend

Based in New York, Todd Townsend is a senior editor on the science and futurism beat at aNewDomain.net. He's also our premier video blogger. Email him at ToddT@aNewDomain.net and follow him at @toddtownsend.