The Planetary Resources Arkyd 100 series space telescopes only weight 20 kg. Launching five include extra weight for some deployment mechanism should be about 200-400kg. This could be put onto small rockets in the $5 to 10 million price range or they could be placed as secondary payload on scheduled launches that are not at full capacity.
The Arkyd 102 telescope in person (top) and in mocked-up artwork from Planetary Resources (bottom)
A Spacex Falcon 9 full of Planetary Resources Arkyd 100 series space telescopes could launch about 100 into geosynchronous orbit and 250 into low earth orbit.
The first two phases of Planetary Resources plans
1. Put up many small space telescopes without propulsion
2. Add small propulsion to escape earth orbit and intercept asteroids
All look very affordable for $10-50 million per year.
There are several developments that could lower the cost of small payload launches.
The first revenue generation will be from saleable space recon information and renting and selling space telescope capability.
The first two phases are to put up a lot of space scopes and then put up space scopes with some propulsion so that they can leave earth orbit for close up viewing of asteroids. I think each scope would cost about 1 to 5 million.
The mining part of it does not come into play until after the viewing and characterization phases. Then it would be to get the water and convert it to fuel.
The existing satellite market is a $260 billion industry. If you were to provide refueling of existing satellites to lengthen there lives that is a business with a few billion per year in value.
The satellite imagery market is a multi billion market.
I also have detailed information on how I think they could tackle the mining and industrialization of space in a profitable way. Their actual plans are still secret.
I think Robin analysis lacks the details around the cost and technical aspects which results in the wrong conclusions and wrong analogies
Enabling big progress against asteroid impact risks
One added benefit of the proliferation of space telescopes looking at near earth asteroids is that they will fully characterize the threat of asteroids that could impact the earth. They will also vastly increase the early warning capabilities for spotting dangerous asteroids.
Robin Hanson at Overcoming Bias has an analysis by analogy and thinks it will not be profitable or worthwhile. I think Robin is wrong on this. I have found some of Robin’s high level analysis interesting and useful for accelerating economics, but by almost completely ignoring fairly big details causes problems for his analysis.