Virgin Galactic Partnering Up With Asteroid-Mining Company
Virgin Galactic hasn’t even taken a tourist to space yet, but the company is already expanding its means by partnering with Planetary Resources to launch tools into space.
Planetary Resources will be relying on the transportation of Virgin Galactic to launch a series of spacecraft, including the Arkyd-100 low-Earth orbit (LEO) space telescopes.
The company’s goal is to eventually mine asteroids, but first has to take a series of steps to determine which asteroids to mine. Several tools will need to be launched into space in order to help look for the proper near-Earth asteroids (NEAs).
“The more spacecraft that the company launches, the faster it will create a future where access to asteroid resources results in a vast network of propellant depots throughout space and a future where once precious and rare materials are abundant for all.,” Eric Anderson, Co-Founder & Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc, said in a statement. “This will enable humanity’s prosperity to continue for centuries to come.”
There are over 1,500 NEAs that are as easy to reach as the Moon, of the nearly 10,000 NEAs known to exist.
Planetary Resources will be launching constellation of Arkyd-100 Series space telescopes that will help the company’s early objective of identifying additional NEAs. The company will compile a list of potential targets, and eventually pursue the asteroids to mine precious metals.
“While the Arkyd spacecraft line itself radically reduces the traditional cost of exploring the NEAs, the less expensive the cost to launch an Arkyd spacecraft to LEO, the more spacecraft the company will launch,” Anderson said in a press release.
Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson announced the LauncherOne concept at the Farnborough International Airshow this week, which will ultimately be the vehicle Planetary Resources uses to advance its goals.
The LauncherOne looks like its current Pegasus system, but has a booster that could eject satellites into orbit, similar to a launch system NASA used to launch its NuSTAR telescope this year.
“We are excited to announce this agreement with Virgin Galactic,” Anderson said in the statement. “LauncherOne has the potential to provide reliable and continuous launch service capability for small payloads. I expect Planetary Resources will launch several constellations of Arkyd-100 Series spacecraft in the coming years aboard LauncherOne.”
George Whitesides, President and CEO of Virgin Galactic, said the company is developing the LauncherOne to deliver small satellites to LEO with the capability to fly dozens of times per year.
“LauncherOne leverages our work in the area of commercial human spaceflight, and will provide reliable, regular launch opportunities to enable Planetary Resources to explore and develop valuable resources from asteroids,” Whitesides said in a statement.
Image Credit: Jan Kaliciak / Shutterstock