It may be one small step – but it could be a giant leap for the commercial exploitation of space. On 27 October, private space company Planetary Resources hopes to place its first spacecraft into Earth orbit, the first step towards its goal of mining asteroids for precious metals, minerals and water.
Called Arkyd 3, the spacecraft is a small test vehicle for the technology the company plans to use in a fleet of asteroid-spotting space telescopes. "The mission will test and validate the spacecraft's core technology and its software," says company spokesperson Stacey Tearne in Redmond, Washington.
The 33-centimetre-long, 10-centimetre-wide spacecraft will piggyback on the next commercial cargo flight to the International Space Station, along with crew supplies and a blood flow experiment called Drain Brain.
Backed by movie director James Cameron, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis, Planetary Resources ultimately aims to spend millions of dollars placing 10 space telescopes, known as Arkyd 100s, in Earth orbit in a bid to spot the telltale spectroscopic signatures of metal-carrying asteroids in deep space.To read more, click here.