Big Dreams Live: Revolutionizing the Economics of Space Travel
Claiming they have identified the new “Iron Range of Minnesota” the vast store of natural resources upon which the US automobile industry was built over decades, a new company called Deep Space is preparing for a 2017 launch of a fleet of 70-pound “DragonFly” satellites into near earth orbit in an attempt to mine an asteroid for high value metals.
Deep Space Industries (DSI) has patents pending on a device called the Microgravity Foundry that will transform raw asteroid material into complex parts using a 3-D printer like device. The printer uses lasers to fashion raw materials into new products including structural parts, fasteners, gears, solar power satellites, space machinery and infrastructure.
Video on Planetary Resource Team Vision: Overcoming the Perils
Mining in Space Has Advantages
When mining the earth extraction of precious materials requires a lot of digging. But an asteroid has its precious material distributed evenly throughout it. In addition, heavy metals, iron, nickel, rare platinum and diamonds exist in heavier concentrations in asteroids than in earth.
According to scientists several hundred thousand asteroids pass by the earth each year and suitable candidates will be identified, especially with NASA’s new system for tracking asteroids and space debris is in place.
Thousands of Tons per Year
If all goes well with the 2017 launch a much larger vehicle will be built capable of harvesting thousands of tons of precious materials per year. At least initially the company believes the materials could be delivered to the Space Station or other orbiting laboratories where experiments would be carried out.
Eventually the price of the entire mining process would come down enough so materials could be returned to earth and used here.
Planetary Resources Supporting Mission
A company called Planetary Resources based in Bellevue Washington and backed by Google executives Larry page and Eric Schmidt and filmmaker James Cameron are planning on backing robot spacecraft asteroid surveying missions because they agree with the potential payoff of space mining. Planetary Resources has the backing of huge multinational companies like Bechtel.
Images and Artwork by Bryan Versteeg & Spacehabs.com