Planetary Resources, the asteroid-mining company backed by some of the biggest names in technology and aerospace, is out with a new behind-the-scenes video showing some of the latest prototypes of the spacecraft that it plans to use to hunt for asteroids.
Chris Lewicki, the Bellevue-based company’s president and chief asteroid miner, cites a weight of 11 kilograms (less than 25 pounds) for one of the Arkyd-100 telescope prototypes, which is considerably lighter than the weight previously mentioned by the company. The prototype also looks noticeably smaller than the one shown by the company when announcing its plans in Seattle last year.
This is important in part because Planetary Resources plans to hitch a ride for its spacecraft on commercial launch vehicles. The smaller the spacecraft, the better.
Lewicki says, “Our engineering team is packing tremendous capability into this small package, and this will give us more launch opportunities to get our spacecraft where they need to go in the Solar System. We’ve put an incredible amount into 11 kg, from our deployable solar arrays, to the integrated avionics bay, and our instrument and sensor package at the back of the comparatively large optical assembly, that dominates the volume of the spacecraft.”
In another part of the video, Lewicki shows the clean room where the company is working on its spacecraft optics technology, including laser communications for transmitting data from deep space. He notes that the company is also under contract to develop the communications technology for NASA.
Lewicki was the Flight Director for the Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity missions. The company was founded by Eric Anderson of Space Adventures and Peter Diamandis of the X Prize Foundation. Investors and advisers to Planetary Resources include Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, filmmaker James Cameron, and early Google investor Ram Shriram.