Planetary Resources, a Redmond, Wash.-based venture that aims to make a fortune mining asteroids, is facing a more down-to-earth challenge: a fundraising shortfall.
Just last month, the company had its Arkyd-6 prototype space telescope launched into orbit by an Indian PSLV rocket, and that spacecraft has been undergoing testing.
Arkyd-6 is designed to provide midwave infrared imagery of Earth, as a technological tryout for future asteroid-observing probes.
A spokeswoman for Planetary Resources, Stacey Tearne, told GeekWire that financial challenges have forced the company to focus on leveraging the Arkyd-6 mission for near-term revenue — apparently by selling imagery and data.
“Planetary Resources missed a fundraising milestone,” Tearne explained in an email. “The company remains committed to utilizing the resources from space to further explore space, but is focusing on near-term revenue streams by maximizing the opportunity of having a spacecraft in orbit.”
Tearne said no further information was available, and did not address questions about employment cutbacks. However, reports from other sources in the space community suggest there have been notable job reductions. For what it’s worth, Planetary Resources had more than 70 employees at last report.
A cursory check of LinkedIn turned up a number of departures between last December and this month — including Akshay Patel, who was Planetary Resources’ vice president of strategy and development.
Patel is now vice president for corporate development at OneWeb, and it’s not clear whether his departure from Planetary Resources was related to the funding shortfall. We’ve reached out to him and will update this report with anything we hear back.
Planetary Resources was founded in 2009 as Arkyd Astronautics, and emerged from stealth mode in 2012 with backing from billionaires such as Google co-founder Larry Page and former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi.
In 2016, the company conducted a $21 million funding round that focused on beefing up its Earth observation capabilities. Later that year, it forged a $28 million deal with officials in Luxembourg to ramp up its asteroid mining efforts.
Planetary Resources’ long-term business plan is to identify resource-rich asteroids and mine them for water and other materials that could be valuable for in-space infrastructure and resupply.
Last year, an investment report from Goldman Sachs said the prospects for space mining could be “more realistic than perceived,” and noted that a single asteroid could yield tens of billions of dollars’ worth of water, platinum and other materials.