Deep Space Industries Introduced Today

Kickoff!Credit: Deep Space Industries

Credit: Deep Space Industries

Source: NBC

A new asteroid mining venture, Deep Space Industries, will be unveiled later today at the The Santa Monica Museum of Flying beginning at 10 AM PT and broadcast on as well as Youtube.  Press releases thus far have indicated that the company will initially focus on sending small, 55 lb. spacecraft evocatively named Firefly, which will launch as hitchhiker payloads with other satellites beginning in 2015 to “targets of opportunity.”

They would then be followed by slightly larger, 70 lb. craft named Dragonfly, which would be capable of returning substantial samples, on the order of 60-150 lbs, from near Earth asteroids, for analysis for future resources utilization depending on their ice or mineral content.

The longer term focus of the business plan appears to rely on a two fold strategy which combines a patent held by the company for a 3-printer which could to produce structurally sound metal components directly from the raw material of the right type of asteroids, in combination with the production and delivery of replenishment fuel for satellites and other spacecraft.

Although satellites have not traditionally been designed for a re-fueling capability due to the obvious lack of any supply, NASA is currently conducting a Robotic Refueling Mission  on an external platform attached to the International Space Station to develop just such a capability, including the capacity to carefully tap into an existing satellite’s fuel system and replenish it.   With many satellites routinely exceeding their estimated service lifetimes,  only to be retired and placed in a graveyard orbit due to a nearly empty fuel tank,  there is the potential at least for a market in satellite refueling, but it is not clear how Deep Space Industires proposed asteroid derived fuel would fit in.  Almost all current satellites are fueled by some variation of hydrazine, which is the focus of another recent startup Vivisat,  which anticipates operating a small fleet of satellite repair and refueling spacecraft.

Deep Space Industries CEO is longtime space entrepreneur David Gump, previously of LunaCorp and Transformational Space, and chairman is Rick Tumlinson, who played an instrumental role in founding the Space Frontier Foundation, and was one of the earliest and most consistent advocates for  the NewSpace movement, known for his call to arms, “Welcome to the revolution.”

Deep Space Industries joins Planetary Resources, which was unveiled late last year, in the effort to  capitalize on the potential of near Earth asteroid to provide the fuel, literally, for a new era of space exploration and resource utilization.

More details to follow:

Posted in: Asteroids

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