Zero Hedge made that claim yesterday. This was in article written under the pseudonym Tyler Durden by Gregor Macdonald proudly proclaimed his cluelessness about Planetary Resources and how they will succeed.
But first just correcting facts.
Crude oil production has been trapped below a ceiling since 2005.
The Energy Information Administration indicated that crude oil and lease condensate for January, 2012 reached a new peak at 75,581,112 million barrels per day. Total oil liquids is very near a peak at 88,813,089 million barrels per day. Only Dec, 2011 had just a bit more. The International Energy Administration oil market monthly has world oil production (all liquids) at over 89 million barrels per day and over 90.0 million barrels of oil per day. The IEA reports that April, 2012 world oil (all liquids) was at a record 91 million barrels per day.
Oil is a critical part of the world economy and Zero Hedge is supposed to be a site where you can get a deeper insight into how the “real” World Economy works. This mistake is big and fundamental mistake on world energy and the direction it is going. World oil supplies are going up. It is not a rapid rise but it is going up.
Planetary Resources is going for Space because they have the advantage in Space
Zero Hedge did not understand why Planetary Resources would go for Space minerals if there are plenty of minerals here on Earth.
Planetary Resources is making a space telescope that is about 100 times cheaper. They do not have that kind of cost advantage here on the Earth. In Space Adventures, the space tourism company, of two of the founders they have sold $500 million in trips to space. Why didn’t they compete with Southwest airlines ? Because they had the unique advantage for space tourism.
Planetary Resources plans to put mass produced 20 kilogram space telescopes into low earth orbit starting at the end of 2013 Some have criticized Planetary Resources as something that will lose a lot of money. I contend that it will be highly profitable even before they mine anything.
It will use laser communication to transmit information back. The lens look like an 9 inch (22 centimeter) diameter telescope.
It uses star cameras for orientation
It uses reaction wheels to point itself. Use that basic stability and enhance it to subarc second pointing.
They can point to the earth and get 2 meter resolution of the ground.
Planetary Resources can choose to make themselves very profitable before any material is mined. Satellite imaging, space telescopes and space data sales are markets that will work.
They will be able to provide Google Earth with higher resolution images and frequent updates to generate more ad revenue for Google. Google founders are backing Planetary Resources.
Planetary Resources would be able to provide a lot more fairly good resolution and frequently updated satellite imagery. This could be advertising supported based on the traffic.
Planetary Resources will also be able to provide updated and fairly good resolution Google Moon, Google Space and eventually Google Asteroid.
Every Major Telescope Observatory and Major university Would want to get an Arkyd Telescope
Every major ground observation station and astronomy institution would want to get a Arkyd space telescope to enhance their ground observation. If the Arkyd scopes get into the sub-$2 million range they will sell hundreds to thousands of the telescopes.
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 and profitable for $10-50 million per year.
Piggy Back launches of 20 kg satellites will be far cheaper than buying whole rockets.
I think by 2017-2020 the space mining of Planetary Resources will be far more affordable than the prior studies of $2.6 billion to bring back 500 tons to high earth orbit.
Earth Imaging Market
In total, 111 satellites were launched for Earth Observation, excluding meteorology, between 2001 and 2010 from 26 countries, including commercial missions, compared with 251 satellites from 43 countries anticipated between 2011 and 2020. The abundance of EO satellites will vastly increase the supply of data available to applications, services, and scientific research and development. The focus of the satellite missions is determined by the typology of system operator.
Overall, investment into civil government Earth Observation reached $5.9 billion in 2010—an all-time high.
Sales of commercial data reached $1.3 billion in 2010 and continue to grow strongly. The U.S. government remains by far the largest consumer of commercial EO data, primarily for defense purposes through the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Following consolidation in the U.S. industry, the industry has grown strongly—by a 23 percent compound annual growth rate during the last five years—largely in response to growing requirements for defense applications. Furthermore, the private sector is showing signs of increased development, particularly for location-based applications.
In total, 83 percent of all commercial data sales are from optical solutions. The remaining 17 percent come from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data solutions. Somewhat unsurprisingly, sub-1-meter-resolution datasets represent the bulk of data sales, such as data provided by U.S.-based operators DigitalGlobe and GeoEye. Because the U.S. Department of Defense is the key customer for image intelligence applications, customers show a clear preference for high resolutions and higher accuracy data sources.
When they get to mining in Space that will work too
The value will be to sell and use the resources in orbit and beyond. Selling water for fuel for the hundreds of billions of satellite assets in orbit will be an early market. Space resources will best be used for space applications and markets. There will be some earth based demand such as for unique space supplied image and data. There could be some markets for the platinium in asteroids but Planetary Resources will not be dependent upon making that work for first revenue.