Deep Space Industries, the California-based company, has announced their plans regarding a commercial space mining mission with the purpose of starting a whole new mining industry. They plan to launch a small satellite by 2020, which will survey a nearby asteroid for certain resources.
On August 9, the company has announced its Prospector-1 space mission during the 30th Annual Conference on Small Satellites at Utah State University. The mission consists of an 110 pounds satellite equipped with technology able to detect deposit of water ice, which could be used as propellant by future deep space spacecraft.
According to Grant Bonin, the chief engineer of Deep Space Industries:
“This is intended to be a very low cost first commercial mission to an asteroid.”
The overall purpose of the mission will be to expand our knowledge of asteroids. Not a lot is known about them, what resources they have and how hard will be to extract them. There have been many studies of asteroids before, but since the space rocks are so fundamentally different from one another, a closer survey is required to determine its precise characteristics and components.
This will be the main purpose of the Prospector-1 mission which will launch into Earth’s low orbit as a secondary payload. Afterward, it will use its own chemical propulsion system and on-board thrusters to leave the orbit and meet with the selected asteroid. Once it has established a nearby position, it will use its infrared cameras to search for water in the form of hydrated minerals and salts. It will also probe under the surface of the asteroid using its neutron spectrometer to measure the amount of hydrogen present which is linked to the existence of water ice.
After the survey is complete, the satellite will try to land on the asteroid and establish a site of interest with high amounts of ice water ready for extraction by future space missions. The company plans to sell the resources to future customers as space propellant, thus reducing the overall costs of similar missions.
The Prospector-1 mission will first be preceded by a technology demonstration mission, Prospector-X, which is developed by the company in cooperation with the government of Luxembourg.
Deep Space Industries hasn’t officially announced a specific date for the launch of their first commercial space mining mission as it still hasn’t selected the asteroid that will be surveyed by the satellite.
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Image source: DSI