I think Planetary Resources has one of the most interesting and one of the coolest ideas in all of space exploration. The company plans to investigate near earth asteroids to figure out if those asteroids might have precious metals and other resources that we need here on earth. The ultimate plan is to set up mining on some these asteroids for precious metals and other items. Planetary Resources has announced an agreement with Virgin Galactic for payload services.
Planetary Resources and Virgin Galactic now have an agreement in place that has to do with using Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne to provide the launch capability for Planetary Resources’ Arkyd robotic spacecraft. That launch capability includes placing the Arkyd-100 low-Earth orbit space telescope where it needs to be. The key to this agreement is continuous, low-cost launch services for small spacecraft to low earth orbit.
Planetary Resources says that out of the 10,000 known near Earth asteroids more than 1500 of them are energetically easy to reach as the moon. Not that reaching the moon is simple. The company plans to use the Arkyd-100 Series space telescopes to identify additional energetically-optimal and highly valuable near Earth asteroids to be added to the detailed list of prospecting targets for future mining or “resource extraction” as Planetary Resources calls it. There is no indication of when the first launches using Virgin Galactic might occur.
“We are developing the LauncherOne to deliver small satellites to LEO in a reliable fashion, 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,” said George Whitesides, President and CEO of Virgin Galactic, LLC.