Asteroid Mining and Deep Space Industries
On January 22, 2013, in a formal announcement at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying in California, Deep Space Industries stated its intention to build “the world’s first fleet of commercial asteroid-prospecting spacecraft.” Naming its first class of spacecraft FireFly in tribute to the Josh Whedon space-western drama TV series, a move certain to endear itself to space-geeks worldwide, myself included, Deep Space Industries said these craft will utilize low-cost CubeSat components and get discounted delivery to space by ride-sharing on the launch of larger communications satellites.
With this announcement, Deep Space Industries became the second company in less than a year to join what is being called the new ‘asteroid gold rush’ to harvest rich fields of water and precious metals available in near-Earth asteroids. Planetary Resources made a similar announcement in April 2012 stating the company intends to launch a demonstration mission to Earth orbit within two years. Likewise, Deep Space Industries says the first FireFly craft will be launched in 2015 on missions of two to six months.
In a press release, Deep Space Chairman Rick Tumlinson said, “Using low cost technologies, and combining the legacy of our space program with the innovation of today’s young high tech geniuses, we will do things that would have been impossible just a few years ago.” Tumlinson is considered by Space News to be one of the 100 most influential people in the space field. According to Deep Space Industries’ website, Tumlinson has testified on space policy issues twice for the US Senate, four times in the US House of Representatives and assisted NASA in the creation of its plan to return to the Moon and the formation of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group. Tumlinson is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.
Deep Space Industries plans, starting in 2016, to begin launching the 70-pound DragonFly spacecraft for round-trip harvesting expeditions which, depending on the target, will take two to four years. It has been thought for some decades that asteroids have resources useful for space exploration and through harvesting these resources exploration becomes less expensive. For example, fuel for space missions could be made in space from the volatiles in asteroids.
According to Deep Space CEO , David Gump, “Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development. More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year. 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. In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century. That is our strategy.” According to Deep Space Industries’ website Gump is co-founder of 3 companies in commercial space, including Astrobotic Technology which in its first 4 years has gathered $12 million in NASA technology development contracts and put a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle under contract for its first mission.
Exciting–without question. Ambitious–no doubt. Fruition–?
All Concept Images – Deep Space Industries
Full article: Deep Space Industries joins the asteroid gold rush. –Deborah Byrd, EarthSky