Planetary Resources Inc. Planning on Mining an Asteroid

One 300-500 meter asteroid has enough resources to make it financially feasible to mine for ore and water

Space news ( September 02, 2015) – Finding and moving an asteroid of this size with the right composition safely to the right location for mining is the difficult part 

Here is an illustration that shows the three typical orbit patterns of near-Earth asteroids. You can see that the Aten, Amor and Apollo orbits come very close to, and sometimes intersect, with the Earth’s orbit. When this occurs we observe them and can even rendezvous with them with our Arkyd spacecraft. Credit: Planetary Resources, Inc.
Here is an illustration that shows the three typical orbit patterns of near-Earth asteroids. You can see that the Aten, Amor and Apollo orbits come very close to, and sometimes intersect, with the Earth’s orbit. When this occurs we observe them and can even rendezvous with them with our Arkyd spacecraft. Credit: Planetary Resources, Inc.

Planetary Resources Inc. is currently doing a survey of potential asteroids with the right composition close enough to make mining safely feasible. Potential asteroids are all closer to Earth than Main Belt asteroids, which are much more difficult to reach and mine for ore and water. Mining a Main Belt asteroid is a project for the future and one better done from a location closer to the target area.

1999 JU3 is on Planetary Resources Target list. It is a known carbonaceous asteroid that is predicted to be worth trillions. Image Credit: Planetary Resources, Inc. http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/#asteroids-targets
1999 JU3 is on Planetary Resources Target list. It is a known carbonaceous asteroid that is predicted to be worth trillions. Image Credit: Planetary Resources, Inc. http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/#asteroids-targets

At this point, Planetary Resources is gathering together the data collected by scientists during the last two decades on over 11,000 potential asteroids, along with nearly a million possible targets located in the Main Belt. Using this data they have developed a list of potential asteroids they’re currently following and evaluating for further prospecting. 

Prospecting potential asteroids using specifically designed spacecraft

In Planetary Resources factory in Redmond, WA engineers and scientists are developing advanced spacecraft capable of traveling to and prospecting potential asteroids. Called Arkyd rendezvous prospectors, these low-cost spacecraft are equipped with hyperspectral and infrared sensors, which will allow scientists to gather data on the composition of potential asteroids. They’ll also analyze data collected and send it back to Earth to be evaluated by geologists for mining feasibility.

Planetary Resources engineers are currently testing this space prospecting technology in low-Earth orbit. The Arkyd 3R deployed from the International Space Station during July. Engineers and scientists are presently testing systems and technologies designed for use in future Arkyd spacecraft.

Arkyd 6 launching in 2015
Arkyd 6 launching in 2015

Work continues

Later in 2015, Planetary Resources is planning on launching Arkyd 6 (A6), a slightly larger and more robust spacecraft carrying an infrared imaging sensor geologists want to use to look at asteroids for water and water-bearing minerals. The data they collect using their Arkyd 3R and A6 spacecraft will be used to define a mission profile for the feasible mining of a potential asteroid in the near future.

For more information on Planetary Resources and plans to mine an asteroid visit here.

For more information on asteroids go here.

Learn about a Magnetar found orbiting Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole astronomers believe resides at the center of the Milky Way.

Read about the first Earth-sized exoplanet discovered suitable as a cradle for a new human genesis.

Learn more about the current search for habitable planets and life beyond Earth.

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