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posted by chromas on Wednesday May 02 2018, @03:03AM   Printer-friendly
from the space-minerals dept.

Planetary Resources declares 'mission success' for Arkyd-6

The technology demonstration spacecraft Arkyd-6, built by Planetary Resources to test technologies for future asteroid prospecting, has completed all of its mission requirements, the company said April 24, 2018.

Launched on Jan. 12, 2018, atop an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle with 30 other satellites, the 22-pound (10-kilogram) Arkyd-6 was designed as a technology demonstrator for future missions to explore and categorize asteroids for eventual resource mining.

[...] The company said the spacecraft successfully deployed its solar panels, demonstrated using its attitude control, distributed computing systems, communications systems, and its Mid-Wavelength Infrared (MWIR) imager.

Planetary Resources said the MWIR is the first commercial imager of its kind in space. It is capable of detecting water and other resources on Earth, but the company hopes to use the technology to locate water and minerals on asteroids for potential mining.

The company plans to launch Arkyd-301 spacecraft to near-Earth asteroids starting in 2020. The article includes an animation of what an Algerian refinery looks like using the MWIR imager.

Previously: Planetary Resources' Arkyd-6 Ready for Launch

Original Submission

Related Stories

Planetary Resources' Arkyd-6 Ready for Launch 1 comment

Planetary Resources' Arkyd-6 ready for launch

After years of development, the Planetary Resources-built Arkyd-6 is finally on the last leg of its journey into space. It is scheduled to be launched as a secondary payload atop India's PSLV-C40 mission in January 2018.

At approximately 4 by 8 by 12 inches (10 by 20 by 30 centimeters), Arkyd-6 is about twice the size of its predecessor, Arkyd-3R, which was deployed from the International Space Station's Kibo module airlock in 2015.

The Arkyd-6 contains the technology that will be used in Planetary Resources' asteroid exploration program such as second-generation avionics, communications, and attitude control systems, as well as orientation systems to aid in attitude control. It also includes the A6 instrument, which will provide infrared images of the Earth in the midwave slice of the spectrum.

The broadband imager spans 3 to 5 microns of the infrared spectrum. This slice of the spectrum reveals the presence of water and is sensitive to heat. As such, the A6 can search for traces of water not only on Earth but elsewhere. The ultimate objective of future versions of this instrument is to find water on near-Earth asteroids.

Original Submission

Chinese Researchers Propose Asteroid Mining Plan, Including a Heat Shield 16 comments

China's Plan to Seize a Near-Earth Asteroid Sounds Surprisingly Feasible

For centuries, humans have extracted minerals from the Earth with reckless abandon, but it's only a matter of time before our desire for gold, platinum, iron, tungsten, and other useful ores will exceed our planet's ability to provide them. But what if we could look beyond Earth for the raw materials we need to power the engines of industry? We'll spare you the disingenuous prattle about how this sounds like a sci-fi movie, because the fact of the matter is asteroid mining is right over the horizon, and a group of Chinese scientists is already trying to figure out how to snag a near-Earth asteroid out of space to harvest all its goodies on Earth.

"Sounds like science-fiction, but I believe it can be realized," Li Mingtao, Ph.D., a researcher at the National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, tells Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua. Li and his colleagues introduced their plan at a competition in Shenzhen in which participants proposed innovative future technologies.

Their plan, which involves a constellation of satellites in an orbit around the sun that would search for asteroids, wrap a massive bag around an asteroid, and ferry it back to Earth, has significant engineering obstacles. Even once they get a spacecraft to intercept an asteroid and envelop it in some kind of strong material, they'll still have to get it here. That's where a giant, unfolding heat shield comes in, to keep the asteroid from burning up upon reentry. It may sound crazy, but it's just one of many equally ambitious ideas floating around in the asteroid mining field. And as far as asteroid mining schemes go, it sounds pretty reasonable.

So far, Li and his team have been working with the Qian Xuesen Laboratory of Space Technology, under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, to identify a suitable target, reports Xinhua. This will likely be a near-Earth asteroid about 30 feet in diameter. Even a small asteroid would be hard to wrangle, but it could still potentially contain billions of dollars worth of precious metals.

I'm envisioning two ways of getting asteroid chunks down to Earth without burning them up: either a controlled landing of a small portion (tens or hundreds of tons) of minerals using a BFR or other reusable rocket, or diverting a heat-shielded asteroid (or small chunk of one) into Earth orbit and then controlling its descent. Possibly into a desert instead of an ocean.

Related: Luxembourg Announces Investment in Asteroid Mining
NASA Asteroid Mission -- Metals "Worth" Ten Thousand Quadrillion Dollars
Asteroid Mining Could Begin in 10-20 Years
"Mission Success" for Arkyd-6 Asteroid Prospecting Demonstration Spacecraft (Planetary Resources has since run dry on funding)

Original Submission

Luxembourg Still Interested in Asteroid Mining 67 comments

Luxembourg expands its space resources vision

√Čtienne Schneider, deputy prime minister of Luxembourg, frequently tells the story of how he got interested in building a space resources industry in the country. His efforts to diversify the country's economy several years ago led to a meeting with Pete Worden, at the time the director of NASA's Ames Research Center and a proponent of many far-reaching space concepts. During an Oct. 22 panel discussion at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Washington, he recalled Worden advocating for commercial space: "Why shouldn't you go for space mining activities?"

"When he explained all this to me, I thought two things," Schneider said. "First of all, what did the guy smoke before coming into the office? And second, how do I get him out of here?"

He eventually bought into Worden's vision, starting a space resources initiative that attracted companies to the country while enacting a space resources law like that in the United States. By the beginning of 2019, though, it looked like it might all be a bad trip. The two major startups in that industry, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, had been acquired by other companies with no interest in space resources. Worse, the Planetary Resources deal wiped out an investment of 12 million euros Luxembourg made in the startup.

Schneider is undaunted by those setbacks as he continues work to make Luxembourg a hotbed of entrepreneurial space, a scope that has expanded beyond, but has not abandoned, space resources. During the IAC, the country's year-old space agency signed an agreement with NASA to explore potential cooperation, building on an agreement Luxembourg signed with the U.S. Commerce Department in May. Just before the conference, Luxembourg announced it would partner with the European Space Agency on a space resources center in the country.

The article includes an interview with Schneider.

Previously: Luxembourg Announces Investment in Asteroid Mining


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Wednesday May 02 2018, @03:25AM (2 children)

    by MostCynical (2589) on Wednesday May 02 2018, @03:25AM (#674431) Journal

    They don't deserve the quote marks - there is no need to disparage their outcomes.
    It made it into orbit, did all the things they wanted it to do, and hasn't (apparently) done anything unexpected.

    Most senior managers define success with a far lower bar than that, and success bonuses often become "no one died because of the software" awards.

    So, well done Planetary Resources. Now, just go rename your company, 'cos you're not mining any planets.

    "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by FatPhil on Wednesday May 02 2018, @07:00AM (2 children)

    by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {}> on Wednesday May 02 2018, @07:00AM (#674481) Homepage
    Let's map mining asteroids onto shagging hollywood or music-industry starlets.
    Let's map prospecting onto trying to chat up said starlets.
    What they've achieved isn't even stalking the starlets.
    All they've achieved is that they've bought a bus pass, so that they can go downtown at some point in the future.

    It really doesn't sound like they've done much more than 60's tech, just with a veneer of future capitalistic greed to attract funding and investment. Sex with the stars - who wouldn't want to be part of that?!
    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by c0lo on Wednesday May 02 2018, @07:34AM (1 child)

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 02 2018, @07:34AM (#674484) Journal

      Sex with starlets is a long forgotten past, car** analogies please.

      ** no, you dummy, sex-with-a-car analogies won't do.

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by bob_super on Wednesday May 02 2018, @05:06PM

        by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday May 02 2018, @05:06PM (#674660)

        > Sex with starlets is a long forgotten past

        Nope, can't make it go away, unless you loan me the required $130k.

  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday May 02 2018, @09:28AM (2 children)

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 02 2018, @09:28AM (#674505) Journal

    What good is an infrared camera for asteroid prospecting?
    I would imagine an IR spectrograph would have been useful to discern between the IR spectra of various substances (e.g. water vs frozen methane or the like).

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by PiMuNu on Wednesday May 02 2018, @10:23AM (1 child)

      by PiMuNu (3823) on Wednesday May 02 2018, @10:23AM (#674523)
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by c0lo on Wednesday May 02 2018, @12:09PM

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 02 2018, @12:09PM (#674535) Journal

        Nice one, thanks. The linked answers to the "location/tracking/size determination" (more specific - thermophysical characterization)
        It doesn't answer though the 'chemistry' part, which methinks is crucial for the "technologies for future asteroid prospecting"