The Leo Space Telescope is Planetary Resources’ first Arkyd Series 100 product. It will provide the company with the core spacecraft technologies necessary for asteroid prospecting while creating the first space telescope within reach of the private citizen. Leo contains the critical structures, avionics, attitude determination and control, and instrumentation that enable low-cost asteroid exploration.
The Leo Space Telescope provides spectacular views of the Earth’s surface and deep space, including the rich, virtually unexplored areas between our planet and the Sun. Central to its configuration and functionality is a precision imaging system. With arc-second resolution, the Leo spacecraft camera will provide detailed celestial and Earth observations where you want them, and when you want them. Leo is capable of surveying for near-Earth asteroids during one orbit, then be retasked for rain forest observation on the next. The possibilities for utility and engagement are only limited by the imagination of the user.
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.
By augmenting the Interceptor spacecraft with deep space laser communication capability, Planetary Resources can launch the Rendezvous Prospector mission to a more distant asteroid, much further away from Earth. Orbiting the asteroid, the Rendezvous Prospector will collect data on the asteroid’s shape, rotation, density, and surface and sub-surface composition.
Through the use of multiple Rendezvous Prospector spacecraft, Planetary Resources will distribute mission risk across several units and allow for broad based functionality within the cluster of spacecraft.
Rendezvous Prospector also results in the creation and demonstration of a low-cost interplanetary spacecraft capability, of interest to potential customers such as NASA, scientific agencies, or other private exploratory organizations.
Initial space resource development will focus on water-rich asteroids. Water is the essence of life and exists in plentiful supply on asteroids. 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.
Recovery and processing of materials in a microgravity environment will occur through significant research and development. Planetary Resources will lead the creation of critical in-situ extraction and processing technologies to provide access to both asteroidal water and metals. When combined with our low-cost deep space explorers, this represents an enabling capability for the sustainable development of space.