Two private companies have recently expressed an interest in what they see as a new flagship industry: asteroid mining. Considered a hot topic in the business field, it raises many ownership questions: who really owns asteroids? Can private companies stake a claim?
One company, Planetary Resources from Washington state, has announced they will launch two separate satellites to examine asteroids. These satellites, termed Arkyd 3 and Arkyd 6, would determine whether the venture would be successful.
Planetary Resources would also design a telescope to find asteroids with mining potential. Unlike the massive NASA telescopes, these would be smaller to mid-size; they’d only need to detect asteroids relatively close to Earth.
Deep Space Industries, the second company to express its interest in asteroid mining, has announced that it will build heavy spacecraft called FireFlies to capture asteroids. One of these proposed craft, termed the DragonFly, would capture the asteroid and analyze its components before sending it back towards Earth. Deep Space Industries would also construct numerous satellites for one-way missions to examine the asteroid’s size, shape, and composition.
Asteroid mining isn’t limited to the private sector. NASA has expressed interest as well through their Early Stage Innovations and Innovative Advanced Concepts missions. The space agency will try to extract valuable minerals from the asteroids as well as water; they have already created a plan to mine water from asteroids.
NASA recently designed the Osiris Rex spacecraft to study the Bennu asteroid, which orbits relatively close to Earth. This mission would land on the asteroid and gather data regarding the space rock’s composition.