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Planetary Resources

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Planetary Resources

Planetary Resources, Inc.
Type Private
Industry Asteroid mining
Founded November 2010 (2010-11) as Arkyd Astronautics[1]
Founders Peter H. Diamandis
Co-Chairman [2]
Eric C. Anderson
Co-Chairman [2]
Headquarters Redmond, Washington[3], U.S.
Key people Chris Lewicki: President & Chief Engineer[2]
Tom Jones: Advisor[2]
Sara Seager: Advisor[4]
Larry Page[2]
Eric Schmidt [2]
James Cameron[2]
Charles Simonyi[2]
K. Ram Shriram[2]
Ross Perot, Jr.[2]
Website .complanetaryresources

Planetary Resources, Inc., formerly known as Arkyd Astronautics, is an American company that was formed in November 2010,[1] and reorganized and renamed in 2012. Their stated goal is to "expand Earth's natural resource base"[2] by developing and deploying the technologies for asteroid mining.

Although the long-term goal of the company is to mine asteroids, its initial plans call for developing a market for small (30–50 kg) cost-reduced space telescopes for both Earth observation and astronomy. These spacecraft would employ a laser-optical system for ground communications, reducing payload bulk and mass compared to conventional RF antennas. The deployment of such orbital telescopes is envisioned as the first step forward in the company's asteroid mining ambitions. The same telescope satellite capabilities that Planetary Resources hopes to sell to customers can be used to survey and intensively examine near-Earth asteroids.

Their first satellite, the Arkyd 3, was destroyed on October 28, 2014 after the Antares resupply rocket exploded seconds after launch.[5] The company's first satellite with an optical telescope—Arkyd-100—was set to launch in late 2015.


Arkyd Astronautics was founded in November 2010, with Peter Diamandis as co-chairman and director, and president and chief engineer Chris Lewicki; it recruited some employees through open job postings.[1] According to co-founder Eric Andersen, the name "Arkyd Astronautics" was deliberately ambiguous, to help keep the company's asteroid-mining agenda secret.[6] Planetary Resources' website was registered on 22 February 2012, by Anderson Astronautics.[7]

The company gained media attention in April 2012 with the announcement of a press conference, scheduled for April 24, 2012.[8] The initial press release provided limited information; as of April 20, 2012, only a list of major investors and advisors was known.[9] Included in the list were a number of people notable for their entrepreneurship and interest in space, exploration, and research. Some also had previous involvement in space research. It was speculated that Planetary Resources was "looking for ways to extract raw materials from non-Earth sources," as the means by which it would (as stated in the press release) "add trillions of dollars to the global GDP."[9] From the outset, the dominant assumption was that the company intended to develop asteroid mining operations,[2][9][10][11] with one anonymous source reportedly verifying that claim in advance of the April 24 event.[12]

The "unveiling" press conference was held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington on April 24, 2012. Tickets for this event were offered for sale to the general public at a basic price of USD $25.00 and were sold out. The main announcements and discussion were handled by an onstage panel of five key people involved with the project. The press conference was also webcast by SpaceVidcast. Live chat functionality was included with the webcast, although it included only limited interaction with major participants at the live event.

Some sources in the company state that Planetary Resources is Arkyd Astronautics under a new name, but Eric Anderson (formerly of Space Adventures), a co-founder, has said that Arkyd became a wholly owned subsidiary of Planetary Resources.[6]

In July 2012, Planetary Resources announced an agreement with Virgin Galactic to enable multiple launch opportunities for its series of spacecraft on LauncherOne starting with the Arkyd-100 series of space telescopes.[13][14][15]

By January 2013, Planetary Resources had completed a ground test prototype of the Arkyd-100 and released a limited set of details publicly.[16]

In April 2013, Planetary Resources announced that Bechtel Corporation has joined Planetary Resources group of investors and will be a collaborative partner in helping Planetary Resources achieve its long-term mission of mining asteroids.[17]

In May 2013, Planetary Resources announced the launch of Kickstarter funding for the ARKYD-100. Their goal was surpassed on 19 June 2013.[18] By the end of the funding period for the Arkyd-100 on 30 June 2013, 1.5 mil. was received from backers on kickstarter. This was partly credited to the success of the photography campaign that will allow supporters to take space selfies by uploading personal images to be displayed in space. The on-screen photos will be retaken by ARKYD camera with the earth as the backdrop.[19]

In June 2013, Planetary Resources took an undisclosed investment from 3D Systems and will make use of its 3D printing technology to manufacture components of the Arkyd spacecraft that Planetary Resources intends to use for finding near-Earth asteroids.[18][20]

Business approach

Planetary Resources is pursuing approaches to dramatically decrease cost for the manufacture of interplanetary spacecraft. The star trackers and momentum wheels to be used on the Arkyd-300 spacecraft have been reduced in cost by two orders of magnitude by following a strategy of vertical integration and in-house manufacturing. Novel approaches to construct the spacecraft bus of the spacecraft include 3D-printing the entire mechanical spaceframe with an integral propellant tank making up the substantial portion of the mechanical structure.[3]


Planetary Resources aims to develop a robotic asteroid mining industry.[4][21] To achieve this, the company is operating on the basis of a long-term strategic plan.

Unveiling the Planetary Resources 3D-Printed Satellite in February 2014 (Arkyd-300[3] satellite bus configuration). The torus holds the propellant and provides the structure for the satellite. From left: Peter Diamandis, Chris Lewicki, and Steve Jurvetson.

The first stage will be a survey and analysis, using purpose-built satellites in Earth orbit, to locate the best potential targets among near-Earth asteroids. Several small space telescopes, with various sensing capabilities, are to be launched for this purpose.[4] The company website asserts that their space telescopes will be made available for hire, for private uses. The company also intends to produce satellites for sale. Their first model of space telescope, the Arkyd-100, has been introduced.[22]

Later stages of the strategic plan envision sending survey probes to selected asteroids in order to map, including deep-scanning, and to conduct sample-and-analysis and/or sample-and-return missions. The company has stated that it could take a decade to finish identifying the best candidates for commercial mining.[8]

Ultimately, their intent is to establish fully automated/robotic asteroid-based mining and processing operations, and the capability to transport the resulting products wherever desired. In addition to the extraction of industrial and precious metals for space-based and terrestrial use, the project envisions producing water for an orbital propellant depot.[23][24][25] Developing the necessary technologies to maturity, and deploying them in proof-of-concept operations, is the company's intermediate-to-long-term objective.

Another goal is to develop the technology to affect and control the orbits of small asteroids. This could also be used for dealing with any potentially hazardous objects in near-Earth space, which presented a serious risk of impact with the planet.

Planetary Resources is seeking partnerships and opportunities to market their capabilities for other, related purposes; such as education and research.

In April 2013, the company announced that in early 2014 they plan on launching a CubeSat called "Arkyd-3", as a testbed manifestation for the Arkyd-100 spacecraft. The purpose of the flight is to test technologies for the first Arkyd-100 spacecraft.[26]

Spacecraft models

An overview of the first three models of the Arkyd-series satellites were initially released in September 2012:[27][28]

  • Arkyd Series 100 (aka "Leo Space Telescope"[29] ) — Earth-observer and asteroid-locator satellite. Able to provide "on-demand" Earth imaging to a wider consumer base due to an "unprecedented low price", this will scout for potentially viable asteroids from low Earth orbit (LEO, hence the name). The Arkyd-100 will have a mass of 11 to 15 kilograms (24–33 lb).[16][26] The optics system of the spacecraft will have three uses: faint object observation and detection (as faint as magnitude 19), near-field bright-object analysis, and optical communications[30]
  • Arkyd Series 200 (aka "Interceptor"[29]) — asteroid interceptor with a suite of instruments able to collect scientific data on physical characteristics of the target asteroid. Unlike its Earthbound predecessor Leo, Interceptor will be "designed to intercept asteroids that come within 10 to 30 Lunar-radii of Earth".[27] Planetary Resources envisions multiple Interceptor telescopes approaching and gathering data on an asteroid.
  • Arkyd Series 300 (aka "Rendezvous Prospector"[29]) — with a larger common propulsion system than the Arkyd-200, is designed to be able to accomplish deep-space exploration "up to half-way across the inner solar system."[27] Like the Interceptor missions, multiple Rendezvous Prospectors can distribute risk and increase data-point collection. This class of instruments will gather more detailed information on the asteroid such as the size, shape, rotation, and density; as well this it will analyse elements such as surface and sub-surface composition that will be necessary for any mining expedition.

Planetary Resources is making preliminary plans for spacecraft models beyond the Arkyd-300, which would go beyond collecting asteroidal data and begin to capture asteroidal samples or perform mineralogic extraction experiments, but they did not make those plans public as of August 2012.[27]

Arkyd 3 Flight test system

Planetary Resources packaged a number of the non-optical satellite technologies of the Arkyd-100—essentially the entire base of the Arkyd-100 satellite model revealed in January 2013,[16] but without the space telescope—and pack those subsystems into a "cost-effective box" for early in-space flight testing on a nanosatellite named the Arkyd 3, or A3. The Arkyd 3 testbed satellite was packaged in a 3U CubeSat form-factor of 10×10×30 centimetres (0.33×0.33×0.98 ft) and was to be flown to space as a secondary payload on an unrelated launch.[26] It was announced later on that, rather than launch A3 directly as a secondary payload, the company is contracting with NanoRacks to take the A3 to the International Space Station, where it would be released from the airlock in the Kibo module.[31] The subsystems to be tested include the avionics, attitude determination and control system (both sensors and actuators), and integrated propulsion system that will enable proximity operations for the Arkyd line of prospectors in the future.[30][32]

The near-term attempt to validate and mature the technology was planned to launch in late October 2014 aboard an Orbital Sciences Antares on the third Cygnus cargo resupply flight to the ISS,[33] after originally being planned to launch in September 2014 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.[26] On October 28, 2014, the satellite was destroyed on launch in the explosion of the Antares launch vehicle carrying it.[34]

The flight test CubeSat is named A3 after a Star Wars probe droid made by Arakyd Industries, deployed to locate galactic resources. The fictional Arakyd Industries was the inspiration for the original name of Planetary Resources, Arkyd Astronautics, of which "Arkyd" has been retained in the naming scheme of each of Planetary Resources' series of spacecraft.[30][3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c John Cook (July 8, 2011). "NASA vet and X Prize creator at the helm of secretive space robot startup Arkyd".  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Christopher Mims (2012-04-18). "Are Ross Perot Jr. and Google's Founders Launching a New Asteroid Mining Operation?".  
  3. ^ a b c d Diamandis, Peter (2014-06-26). "Update from Planetary Resources". Peter H. Diamandis channel. Planetary Resources. Retrieved 2014-07-30. 
  4. ^ a b c Adam Mann (April 23, 2012). "Tech Billionaires Plan Audacious Mission to Mine Asteroids".  
  5. ^ Plait, Phil (28 October 2014). "BREAKING: Antares Rocket Explodes On Takeoff". Slate. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Dan Leone (24 April 2012). "Asteroid Mining Venture Aims To Lay Foundation with Small, Cheap Space Telescopes".  
  7. ^ WHOIS inquiry on
  8. ^ a b "Start-Up Outlines Asteroid-Mining Strategy". Wall Street Journal. 24 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  9. ^ a b c Andew Pulver (20 April 2012). "James Cameron backs space explorers Planetary Resources".  
  10. ^ Adi Robertson (April 18, 2012). "Mystery company backed by James Cameron and Google executives may be an asteroid mining project".  
  11. ^ Brian Caulfield (April 20, 2012). "'"Planetary Resources Co-Founder Aims To Create Space 'Gold Rush.  
  12. ^ Nate C. Hindman (April 20, 2012). "Planetary Resources, New Space Startup, To Mine Asteroids And Sell Materials On Earth".  
  13. ^ Bishop, Todd (2013-07-11). "Asteroid miners on board with Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne". Geekwire. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  14. ^ Schmidt, Klaus (2013-07-12). "Planetary Resources, Inc. Announces Agreement with Virgin Galactic for Payload Services". spacefellowship. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  15. ^ Knapp, Alex (2013-07-11). "Asteroid Mining Startup Planetary Resources Teams With Virgin Galactic". Forbes. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  16. ^ a b c Heater, Bryan (2013-01-21). "Planetary Resources shows off Arkyd-100 prototype, gives a tour of its workspace". Engadget. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  17. ^ Boyle, Alan (2013-04-17). "Big-time players are getting serious about asteroid perils and profits". NBC. Retrieved 2013-04-17. 
  18. ^ a b Romano, Benjamin (2013-06-26). "Planetary Resources Inks 3D Systems Deal, Plans Test Launch From ISS". Xonomy. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Chris Velasco (2013-06-26). "3D Systems Invests In Asteroid Miners Planetary Resources, Opens Up New Seed-Stage Venture Arm". Techcrunch. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  21. ^ Matthew Sparkes (2012-04-24). "Planetary Resources unveils cosmic plan 'to boldly go' and mine asteroids for gold and platinum". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  22. ^ Boyle, Alan (2012-06-20). "Asteroid-hunting venture wants you ... to suggest crowdfunding projects". msnbc. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  23. ^ "Planetary Resources believes asteroid mining has come of age". April 30, 2012. 
  24. ^ "". April 19, 2012. 
  25. ^ John Brophy, Fred Culick, Louis Friedman and al (12 April 2012). "Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study". Keck Institute for Space Studies, California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 
  26. ^ a b c d Mike Wall (2013-04-24). "Private Asteroid-Mining Project Launching Tiny Satellites in 2014". Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  27. ^ a b c d  
  28. ^ "Planetary Resources: Technology". Planetary Resources. Retrieved 24 September 2012. 
  29. ^ a b c "Planetary Resources–Technology". Planetary Resources. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  30. ^ a b c Lewicki, Chris; Chris Voorhees; Spencer Anunsen (2013-04-24). "Planetary Resources One-year Update". Planetary Resources. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ Marks, Paul (2014-10-24). "Asteroid miners to launch first private space telescope". New Scientist. Retrieved 2014-10-31. 
  33. ^ Wilhelm, Steve (2014-10-16). "First step toward asteroid mining: Planetary Resources set to launch test satellite". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved 2014-10-19. 
  34. ^

Unannotated references

  • "Seattle's Museum of Flight event announcement". The Museum of Flight. 18 April 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  • Ross Andersen (May 14, 2012). "Robots, Platinum, and Tiny Space Telescopes: The Pitch for Mining Asteroids".   - an interview with advisor Sara Seager.

External links

  • Planetary official website
  • Asteroid Mining 1 session, National Space Society ISDC 2013 conference - 15 June 2013.
  • an independent site devoted to coverage of Planetary Resource's space activities
  • Video: Planetary Resources—Tech Update, January 22, 2013
  • Video: Planetary Resources - Press conference - April 25, 2012
  • Chris Lewicki interviewed on the TV show Triangulation on the network
  • SEDS Space Talks featuring Chris Voorhees, VP of Spacecraft Development, Planetary Resources. 58 minutes, April 3, 2014. Includes updated spacecraft graphics and mission dates ("2014—A3; 2015—A100; 2016 and beyond: A200/A300") at 29:55.
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