Planetary Resources launches spacecraft to test technologies for mining minerals from asteroids

19 July 2015 (Last Updated July 19th, 2015 18:30)

Planetary Resources has successfully launched its demonstration spacecraft Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) from the International Space Station's (ISS) Kibo airlock to begin testing technologies for mining minerals from asteroids.

Arkyd 3R

Planetary Resources has successfully launched its demonstration spacecraft Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) from the International Space Station's (ISS) Kibo airlock to begin testing technologies for mining minerals from asteroids.

Planetary Resources president and chief engineer Chris Lewicki said: "Our philosophy is to test often, and if possible, to test in space.

"By vertically integrating the system at our facility in Redmond, we are in constant control of every component, including the ones we purchase off the shelf and the others that we manufacture using 3D printers."

The A3R, which launched to the ISS onboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 in April, has started its 90-day mission to test its technologies, including the avionics, control systems and software.

The asteroid mining company plans to incorporate the technologies into future spacecraft that will venture into the Solar System and prospect for resource-rich near-Earth asteroids.

After completion of testing by A3R, the validated and evolved technologies will be the primary components of the Arkyd series of deepspace asteroid-prospecting spacecraft.

"This key technology for determining resources on asteroids can also be applied towards monitoring and managing high-value resources on our home planet."

Planetary Resources is leveraging the increased payload capacity of the next demonstrator, the Arkyd-6 (A6), which is scheduled to launch later this year.

The capacity increase is aimed at beginning demonstration of core technology to measure resources on water-rich asteroids.

Planetary Resources co-founder and co-chairman Eric Anderson said: "This key technology for determining resources on asteroids can also be applied towards monitoring and managing high-value resources on our home planet.

"All of our work at Planetary Resources is laying the foundation to better manage and increase humanity's access to natural resources on our planet and in our Solar System."


Image: Arkyd 3R deploying from the Kibo Module on the ISS. Photo: courtesy of Nasa.