Another new asteroid mining venture plans to send fleets of small spacecraft to rendezvous with space rocks, aiming to harvest their contents. That makes two startups now in the asteroid-rush of the early 21st-century teens. This one also plans to use asteroid materials right where they’re found, as feedstock for spaceborne 3-D printers.
Deep Space Industries will unveil its plans later today at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying, but here’s a sneak peek.
“They can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century--a key resource located near where it was needed,” said CEO David Gump, previously of Astrobotic, a competitor for the Google Lunar X Prize. “In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century.”
Competing asteroid mining venture Planetary Resources aims to use robotic spacecraft to exploit near-Earth objects. The company plans to harvest asteroid ice for rocket fuel, and for platinum-group metals like palladium, iridium and platinum itself. In announcing its foundry plans, Deep Space seemed to scoff at rare-metals as an ultimate goal: “Mining asteroids for rare metals alone isn’t economical, but makes senses if you already are processing them for volatiles and bulk metals for in-space uses,” said Mark Sonter, a member of the DSI board of directors.
The company’s leadership has some space credentials--chairman Rick Tumlinson signed up the world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito, and is a founding trustee of the X Prize. But there’s one major difference between DSI and Planetary Resources, and that’s funding. PRI’s high-profile backers include Eric Schmidt and Larry Page from Google, filmmaker James Cameron, Ross Perot Jr. (son of the former presidential candidate), space tourism pioneer Eric Anderson, and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis, among others. DSI is looking for sponsors.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.