Within a few years, the first commercial mining mission beyond Earth’s orbit could be underway. Asteroid mining company Deep Space Industries has announced that it will be sending a spacecraft called Prospector-1 out in search of resources by the end of the decade.
In 2017, the company plans to launch its Prospector-X spacecraft to test the technology out in low Earth orbit. Shortly after, Prospector-1 will travel to a near-Earth asteroid, touch down and determine whether it is a good source of minerals.
Weighing about 110 pounds, Prospector-1 will be powered by water, expelling superheated vapor to generate thrust. Since water will be the first resource mined from asteroids, this water propulsion system will allow future spacecraft–the ones that do the actual mining–to refuel on the go.
The company has not yet specified which asteroid they plan to visit.