Planetary Resources Inc., formerly Arkyd Astronautics, revealed a ambitious multistage plan to harvest extraterrestrial resources during a press held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA.

The company, based in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, has been working quietly for the last three years to develop the plan, which includes space telescopes in Earth orbit, probes to investigate near-Earth asteroids, and ultimately a system to capture an asteroid and return it to Earth orbit.

Asteroid resources include water for use in space and scarce metals for use on Earth. A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history, according to Planetary Resources.

“Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space,” said Peter Diamandis, co-founder and co-chairman the board. “As access to these materials increases, not only will the cost of everything from microelectronics to energy storage be reduced, but new applications for these abundant elements will result in important and novel applications.”

The first phase in the plan would involve launching a series of Arkyd 100 space telescopes into Low Earth Orbit. Each Arkyd telescope would cost a few million dollars, including launch. Arkyd satellites are designed for rideshare missions and do not require dedicated launches.

Arkyd 100 telescopes would used to search for candidate asteroids that are orbits that can be reached with lower energy requirements than the Moon. Over 9000 near-Earth asteroids are now known, 1500 of which have delta-v (energy) requirements less than those of the lunar landing missions. This is only a small fraction of the number that are believed to exist.

In addition to searching for asteroids, the Arkyd telescopes would be available for astronomical observations and commercial remote sensing of the Earth. Planetary Resources plans to make the telescopes available for rental to universities and private companies.

The first Arkyd 100 is planned for launch in 2013.

The next phase in the project would be the launch of Arkyd 200 series interceptors. The Arkyd 200 interceptor would be based on the Arkyd 100 bus, with the addition of a propulsion system and new instrumentation. Arkyd 200 interceptors would be launched on rideshare missions with communications satellites headed for geosynchronous orbit. Arkyd interceptors would be launched in swarms to provide redundancy and allow for system failures.

Next would come the Arkyd 300 rendezvous prospector. An upgraded version of the Arkyd 200, the 300-series probe would go into orbit around a promising asteroid, gathering detailed data on shape, rotation, density, and sub-surface composition. Like the early probes, the Arkyd 300 series would operate in swarms. The Arkyd 300 rendezvous prospector would also form the basis of a low-cost interplanetary satellite bus which Planetary Resources could market to NASA, other space agencies, and private space exploration companies.

In the final phase, Planetary Resources would send an unmanned probe to capture an asteroid, alter its orbit, and bring the asteroid back to Earth orbit.

Planetary Resources was founded by Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures, and Dr. Peter Diamandis, best known as founder of the X-Prize Foundation. Anderson and Diamandis serve as co-chairmen of the board. The leadership team includes president and chief engineer Chris Lewicki, who was NASA was flight director for the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and vice-president for spacecraft development Chris Voorhees, who was chief engineer for mechanical assembly, integration, and testing for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory.

Investors include Google CEO Larry Page and chairman Eric Schmidt, Google board member Ram Shiram, Microsoft billionaire and citizen space explorer Charles Simonyi, and Ross Perot, Jr., chairman of The Perot Group.

Advisors include filmmaker James Cameron, scientist and former NASA astronaut Tom Jones, for Air Force Chief of Staff General Michael Moseley, and MIT professor Sara Seager.

 

Written by Astro1 on April 24th, 2012 , Planetary Resources Tags:

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