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Arkyd-6 preparations
Workers prepare Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-6 technology demonstrator satellite for shipment at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash. (Planetary Resources via YouTube)

Planetary Resources has been working on its Arkyd-6 imaging satellite for years, and today the company reported that the printer-sized spacecraft has finally begun its journey to an Indian launch pad.

Arkyd-6 is considered a technology trailblazer for the asteroid-observing probes that Planetary Resources plans to build at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

The company’s first demonstrator satellite, the Arkyd-3R, was deployed from the International Space Station’s Kibo airlock in 2015. The Arkyd-6 is twice as big, and is expected to provide Earth imagery in the midwave infrared slice of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Infrared imaging will eventually come in handy for observing near-Earth asteroids and determining which are the richest potential targets for robotic mining operations. Water ice is the primary target, at least for the early going, since H2O can be turned into hydrogen rocket fuel as well as breathable oxygen and drinkable water for space travelers.

Planetary Resources’ president and CEO, Chris Lewicki, has said the first steps in the company’s asteroid prospecting campaign could well be taken by 2020.

Arkyd-6 represents one small step toward that goal. How small? Roughly 4 by 8 by 12 inches, in accordance with what’s known as the 6U Cubesat standard.

A video clip shows the satellite undergoing final assembly, protective packing, and placement into a carry-on suitcase that’s rolled out to a waiting automobile (with someone dressed up in an Arkyd-6 costume standing beside the car door).

The camera follows the car as it drives over the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge to Seattle, where the satellite was presumably handed off to Spaceflight Industries. Spaceflight is handling payload processing for Arkyd-6’s launch as a secondary payload on India’s PSLV-C40 space mission.

The PSLV rocket is due to lift off from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center to put the Cartosat-2ER imaging satellite and more than two dozen smaller spacecraft into orbit.

This won’t be the last we hear from Planetary Resources’ newly delivered baby.

“In the weeks leading up to launch day, we’ll be sharing with you information on the Arkyd-6, its mission and the team who built it – so be on the lookout!” Planetary Resources says.

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