New space start-up plans to launch spacecraft to mine asteroids by 2015

22 Jan 2013

A new US space company by the name of Deep Space Industries is set to launch today, with the aim of sending spacecraft into space by 2015 to hunt for and explore asteroids that pass by Earth and eventually harvest resources from them.

The private start-up is set to reveal its plans for asteroid mining during a press conference at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying in California at 1pm EST (6pm GMT) today. The announcement from Deep Space Industries will also be streamed live via YouTube.

Prior to today’s announcement regarding its plans, the company has issued a statement to say it will be sending a fleet of “asteroid-prospecting spacecraft” into the solar system to harvest and process asteroids for use in space and to benefit Earth.

According to Deep Space Industries, the first of its ‘FireFly’ spacecraft will have a target launch date for 2015.

“This is the first commercial campaign to explore the small asteroids that pass by Earth,” said Deep Space chairman Rick Tumlinson. The space activist is also the co-founder of the Space Frontier Foundation.

With the FireFly spacecraft weighing around 55lbs (25kg), the plan is to launch the first ones in 2015 for space voyages lasting from two to five months.

“Using low-cost technologies, and combining the legacy of our space programme with the innovation of today’s young high-tech geniuses, we will do things that would have been impossible just a few years ago,” said Tumlinson.

The company, it seems, is also aiming to work with NASA and other companies to identify opportunities.

Harvesting asteroids

Deep Space is then planning to launch ‘DragonFlies’ spacecrafts in 2016 to mine asteroids and bring back samples to Earth.

The company’s CEO David Gump said more than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year.

“In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century. That is our strategy,” he said.

According to the company, one of its market opportunities will be producing fuel for communications satellites. Deep Space said it has forged a non-disclosure agreement with an aerospace company to discuss a future collaboration on this opportunity.

Within a decade, Deep Space claims it will be in a position to harvest asteroids for metals and other building materials, to construct large communications platforms to replace communications satellites.

The company is now seeking customers and sponsors to be part of its space projects.

Planetary Resources is another asteroid-mining company that’s on a similar mission to harvest asteroids for precious metals, such as platinum and other resources.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic