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An artist's rendering of the Arkyd 100 space telescope in orbit. The launch of the Arkyd 3 engineering demonstrator Monday is the first big step in Planetary Resources' plan to find and mine near-Earth asteroids.
An artist’s rendering of the Arkyd 100 space telescope in orbit. The launch of the Arkyd 3 engineering demonstrator this week was to be the first big step in Planetary Resources’ plan to find and mine asteroids.

Planetary Resources, the Redmond-based asteroid mining company whose first experimental satellite is presumed destroyed in the explosion of the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket on Tuesday afternoon, says its long-term development schedule won’t be thwarted by the incident.

The company released this statement on the incident and its future plans.

Our first technology demonstrator, the Arkyd 3 (A3), was onboard the ORB-3 when the Antares rocket suffered a catastrophic failure seconds after launch from Wallops, Virginia on October 28, 2014.

As this launch failure and history have demonstrated, spaceflight is inherently risky. The A3 is the first example of our strategy to “use space as our testbed,” and to tolerate failures by building success into the development path. With the A3, the Planetary Resources’ team achieved most of our objectives when we delivered the spacecraft to the launch integration site; and for the past few months, we have been hard at work on our next vehicle, the Arkyd 6 (A6).

Our development schedule has not been affected, the A6 is Planetary Resources’ second demonstration vehicle in our spacecraft program. We have contracted with Spaceflight Services, Inc. to include the A6 in a rideshare configuration on an upcoming U.S. commercial launch vehicle, currently scheduled for launch in Q3 2015.

The unmanned Orbital Sciences rocket exploded shortly after liftoff from Wallops, Va., on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. The cause of the “catastrophic anomaly” is under investigation. No one was injured.

“While NASA is disappointed that Orbital Sciences’ third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station was not successful today, we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today’s mishap,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, in a statement.

He added, “The crew of the International Space Station is in no danger of running out of food or other critical supplies.”

Here’s the archived video of the first NASA news conference on the incident.


Chris Lewicki, a NASA veteran who is the Planetary Resource’s chief engineer and president, likes to explain the company’s approach by saying, “When failure is not an option, success gets really expensive.”

Chris Lewicki
Chris Lewicki at the GeekWire Summit in October.

This was not the “Space Telescope For Everyone” that Planetary Resources funded through a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $1.5 million last year. The Arkyd 3 was a preliminary, test satellite designed to serve as a precursor to future Arkyd missions. We’re asking about the status of that Kickstarter-funded project.

Future versions of the Arkyd line will have telescopes for hunting for near-Earth asteroids. Ultimately, in a few years, the plan is to send Arkyd spacecraft to mine asteroids, where the company envisions a trillion-dollar market capturing oxygen and hydrogen for fuel, and mining for precious metals.

Planetary Resources, started by X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis and Space Adventures chairman Eric Anderson, is backed by a wide range of investors, including Google CEO Larry Page and filmmaker James Cameron.

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