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Planetary Resources, the Bellevue-based asteroid-mining company backed by some of the biggest names in technology and aerospace, now has some more competition.

A new Virginia-based space company called Deep Space Industries announced today that by 2015, it will be sending a 55-pound “FireFly” spacecraft into the sky in search of asteroids near earth. The company vows to have the “world’s first fleet of asteroid-hunting spacecraft” and also has a patent-pending technology called the MicroGravity Foundry — a 3D printer — that transforms raw asteroid material into complex metal parts.  

Mining for asteroids that could produce valuable materials worth sending back to Earth is a similar venture to what Planetary does. Deep Space’s announcement today better explains why Planetary came out with a behind-the-scenes video yesterday that showed some of the latest prototypes of the spacecraft that it plans to use to hunt for asteroids. The company first released its own plans for asteroid-hunting back in April.

Chris Lewicki, Planetary’s president and chief asteroid miner, cited a weight of 11 kilograms (less than 25 pounds) for one of the Arkyd-100 telescope prototypes in the video. That’s 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.

While Planetary already has big-name investors like Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, filmmaker James Cameron, and early Google investor Ram Shriram, Deep Space is currently looking for customers and sponsors who “want to be a part of creating this new space economy.”

“The company believes that taking the long view, while creating value, opportunities and products in the near term will allow it to become one of the economic engines that opens space to humanity,” reads a company press release.

Deep Space’s CEO is David Gump, the co-founder of Transformational Space Corp. and Astrobotic Technology Inc. who also produced the first TV commercial shot on the International Space Station for RadioShack. Chairman Rick Tumlinson founded the Space Frontier Foundation and also Space Diving and Orbital Outfitters.

You can watch the official launch announcement at 10 a.m. PST here.

Previously on GeekWire: Asteroid miner Chris Lewicki points Planetary Resources to a new industry in space


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