Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources has deployed its first spacecraft into orbit from the International Space Station — beginning a 90-day test mission for several of the key technologies required to hunt for near-Earth asteroids.
The deployment of the Arkyd 3 Reflight spacecraft, or A3R, was announced by the Redmond, Wash.-based company this morning. Planetary Resources, founded and led by commercial space and NASA veterans, says asteroid mining will represent a multi-trillion-dollar industry.
“The successful deployment of the A3R is a significant milestone for Planetary Resources as we forge a path toward prospecting resource-rich asteroids,” said Peter Diamandis, Planetary Resources co-founder, in a post announcing the news. “Our team is developing the technology that will enable humanity to create an off-planet economy that will fundamentally change the way we live on Earth.”
This first mission will allow Planetary Resources to test systems including avionics, control systems and software for future spacecraft that will seek out asteroids rich in natural resources.
Here’s an animation showing the moment the A3R was deployed.
The mission is also a demonstration of Planetary Resource’s resiliency. The original Arkyd 3 was destroyed in the explosion of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket last year. The new Arkyd 3 Reflight spacecraft, or A3R, was launched as part of the SpaceX CRS-6 resupply mission to the ISS in April of this year. That was the mission prior to the recent SpaceX CRS-7 resupply launch, which exploded shortly after liftoff.
“Our philosophy is to test often, and if possible, to test in space. The A3R is the most sophisticated, yet cost-effective, test demonstration spacecraft ever built. We are innovating on every level from design to launch,” said Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources president and chief engineer, in a post this morning. “By vertically integrating the system at our facility in Redmond, we are in constant control of every component, including the ones we purchase off the shelf and the others that we manufacture using 3D printers.”
The company’s next test spacecraft, the Arkyd-6, is set to launch later this year, testing functions including attitude control, power, communication and avionics systems.