Deep Space Industries believes the human race is ready to begin harvesting the resources of space both for their use in space and to increase the wealth and prosperity of the people of planet Earth.
Deep Space Industries is a competitor to Planetary Resources which also is working towards space asteroid mining.
Deep Space Industries plans to launch a fleet of prospecting spacecraft in 2015, then begin harvesting metals and water from near-Earth asteroids within a decade or so. Such work could make it possible to build and refuel spacecraft far above our planet’s surface, thus helping our species get a foothold in the final frontier.
Deep Space will inspect potential mining targets with 55-pound (25 kilograms) spacecraft it calls FireFlies, the first of which are targeted for launch in 2015.
FireFlies will conduct asteroid reconnaissance on the cheap. They’ll be made from low-cost “cubesat” components and will hitch a ride to space aboard rockets that also carry large communications satellites, Deep Space officials said.
“We can make amazing machines smaller, cheaper and faster than ever before,” Deep Space chairman Rick Tumlinson said in a statement. “Imagine a production line of FireFlies, cocked and loaded and ready to fly out to examine any object that gets near the Earth.”
The FireFlies’ work will pave the way for 70-pound (32 kg) spacecraft called DragonFlies, which will blast off beginning in 2016. DragonFlies will bring asteroid samples back to Earth during missions that last two to four years. Some samples will help the company determine mining targets, while others will probably be sold to researchers and collectors, officials said.
Building and refueling spacecraft off Earth
These activities are all precursors to Deep Space’s ultimate goal, which is the harvesting and in-space utilization of asteroid resources.
The company intends to begin extracting metals and other building materials from space rocks within 10 years, officials said. These components will first be used to build communications satellites off-Earth, with the construction of space-based solar power stations coming later. Precious metals such as platinum will also be delivered to Earth for terrestrial use.
Deep Space’s construction activities will be aided by a patent-pending 3D printer called the MicroGravity Foundry, officials said.
“The MicroGravity Foundry is the first 3D printer that creates high-density, high-strength metal components even in zero gravity,” company co-founder and MicroGravity Foundry inventor Stephen Covey said in a statement. “Other metal 3D printers sinter powdered metal, which requires a gravity field and leaves a porous structure, or they use low-melting point metals with less strength.”
Deep Space Industries will also focus on extracting asteroid water, which can be split into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen — the chief components of rocket fuel. The company’s mining efforts could thus lead to the establishment of in-space “gas stations” that allow satellites and journeying spacecraft to top up their tanks relatively cheaply and efficiently.
A large market for DSI is producing fuel for communications satellites. Low-cost asteroid propellant delivered in orbit to commsats will extend their working lifetimes, with each extra month worth $5 million to $8 million per satellite. DSI has executed a non-disclosure agreement with an aerospace company to discuss collaboration on this opportunity.
In a decade, Deep Space will be harvesting asteroids for metals and other building materials, to construct large communications platforms to replace communications satellites, and later solar power stations to beam carbon-free energy to consumers on Earth. As DSI refines asteroids for in-space markets, it also will harvest platinum group metals for terrestrial uses, such as pollution control devices.
SOURCES – Parabolic Arc, Deep Space Industries, Space.cmo
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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