What Happened to Planetary Resources’ Real Satellite?

Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)

While Planetary Resources unveiled a tiny model of a spacecraft 3D printed from asteroid metals amid much hype at the glitzy Consumer Electronics Show this week, the space mining company has apparently remained silent for nearly six months about an actual satellite it launched into space.

The Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) CubeSat was deployed from the International Space Station on July 16 on a planned 90-day mission to “validate several core technologies including the avionics, control systems and software, which the company will incorporate into future spacecraft that will venture into the Solar System and prospect for resource-rich near-Earth asteroids.” It was the company’s first deployed spacecraft.

Miniature satellite model made from asteroid material. (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Miniature satellite model made from asteroid material. (Credit: Planetary Resources)

“The successful deployment of the A3R is a significant milestone for Planetary Resources as we forge a path toward prospecting resource-rich asteroids,” Co-founder Peter Diamandis said in a press release. “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.”

The company has not posted an update on its website about this significant milestone since the satellite was deployed. The silence is rather odd given the significance of the mission and the company’s PR savvy.

A3R might have already re-entered the atmosphere. A search on N2YO.com indicates a satellite by that name re-entered the atmosphere on Dec. 23. However, the listing indicates a November 1998 launch date.

UPDATE: The A3R did in fact re-enter the atmosphere on Dec. 23. The November 1998 launch date is for the ISS Zarya module that was launched at that time. Anything deployed from the space station has that launch date.

  • Geobram

    but did it do (anything) what it was meant to do?

  • ThomasLMatula

    Not surprising, it is like expecting a biotech firm to share how its research is going. The only ones with a need to know about research are its investors, or if it involves government approvals, regulators. In the latter case elements will become public knowledge as with Blue Origins launch license. So if NASA funds are not involved and there are no regulatory issues beyond those with the Registration Convention there should be no expectation for them to share.

    Remember, PR exists to build interest in a firm for investors, to sell its products, to recruit employees, or influence public support for creating a supportive regulatory environment. Beyond that it is just bragging for bragging sake. So I see this as a sign of a firm that is serious about its business, unlike many space firms that seem to exist more for the praise of its peers (other space advocates) than as a serious business.

    The 3d printed structure is neat, but rings and even swords have been made from asteroid metal (meteorites) in the past, so it is not a real breakthrough until it’s done in space with the metals being processed there. But it is neat!

  • Douglas Messier

    I would have expected something at the close of the 90-day mission short on technical details but long on the rhetorical flourishes that are the trademark of all Peter Diamandis ventures. A great first step by our brilliant engineers in the great space paradigm shift conceived of by our visionary founders. Peter was far more vocal (and strangely positive, in an always look on the bright side of life way) after the SS2 crash. Has he said anything about this mission since its launch?

  • JS_faster

    Almost assuredly they lost it soon after it was released from the ISS. It was just a prototype for their controller and comm hardware. Guess they are back at the drawing board.

  • JS_faster

    BTW- Your latest poll is tricky. Yes it will be “paradym that blah blah blah..”… someday. But it is also likely not to work as presented because, they seem to be falling into the usual dog and pony capital raising shtick that space startups usually get stuck in (and die).

  • PK Sink

    Thank you Doug for raising this issue. As a Kickstarter contributor I was hoping that they would keep us a lot more in the loop…good or bad. Maybe your attention will encourage them to open up a little.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Interesting, so if news from a private firm is nothing other than the purpose of engendering irrational love for the company, I wonder why libertarians get bent out of all shape when governments do it yet state it as common practice when it applies to a private organization? Modern societies are big complex beasts, they need news to function. Real information from both private and public sources. No wonder our society is falling apart. I’m sure our news organizations think just like you do, and use the news as a platform for advertising paid for no doubt.

  • ThomasLMatula

    This could be a good sign, one that Peter Diamandis doesn’t have the as much power in this venture as in the ones he was running that failed.

  • ThomasLMatula

    News has always served as propaganda. Newspapers in fact first emerged to promote one political view over another. It is only recently in history that folks developed the irrational belief that the media is suppose to be impartial and accurate in its reporting, largely as a result of government regulation of the broadcast media (equal time doctrine…).

    Also reporting news isn’t free, its expensive. Indeed, the modern advertising industry dates to the emergence of the modern capital intensive newspaper industry in the 1800’s.

    As for public relations, it’s key function is indeed to promote a favorable attitude towards a organization. Indeed the modern PR business was invented when Standard Oil hired an ex-reporter, Ivy Lee, to improve its image. And government agencies have always been one of its biggest customers under the cover of providing “public information”. So there is nothing new there.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Well then I’d say your gulch press is no different then Itar TASS.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Or the European press. Or Asian, or … News media the world over is basically the same, it pushes the topics that fit the agenda of its editors/owners and will paid it’s bills. That is why it is important to cast a wide net for news and always evaluate what you read. The great thing about the Internet is that it allows you to do so much easier today than in any time in history.

    And bringing it to your original post, that satisfies the information needs of the complex global society the Internet help to create, a process that started with the telegraph in the Victoria era.

  • Douglas Messier

    I’m guessing the satellite failed. This is why they haven’t said anything about it. I don’t know how that’s a good thing. It would be nice if they would just come out and explain what happened given how much effort they put into a KickStarter to get the public involved and enthused about their work.

    Don’t know how much Peter D is involved in this venture. Between running the X Prize full time, his duties with Singularity University and setting up a $200 million venture capital fund, how much time could he have? I imagine he’ll have to relinguish his position at X Prize if the fund takes off.

  • PK Sink

    ” That is why it is important to cast a wide net for news and always evaluate what you read.”

    Words of wisdom Thomas. It is shocking to me how many people refuse to cast a wide net, and refuse to evaluate what they read, hear and believe. Millions of people have fought and died in defense of utter stupidity.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Sounds like a cheap excuse to take pressure off the private press to be as truthful, indepth, and at least some level of impartiality. Yet again American libertarians make the case for schlepping off all the responsibility to the customer, yet leave the profits for the board to take for themselves. There are a lot of reporters out there who try to report the news as impartially as they can. It’s a shame that the political school of thought that advocates for a private free press more than most, wont even put one ft lb of moment on the share holders to back them up.

  • PK Sink

    Gee Andrew, what’s with you and libertarians? You’ve mentioned them twice in a conversation about space.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Fair enough. I’ll self yank my own collar. 🙂

  • James

    The problem is most people won’t invest the time into that or have no clue about a subject. So they take the 90sec blerb.

  • PK Sink

    Good Fido. But be sure to keep the conversations coming.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I expect like Sir Richard, Peter just gives his name to the ventures and goes out to hype them while the actual work of running them is left to someone else.

    The craft may well have failed which is why he wasn’t called to go out and crow about it. But since Kickstarter money was used they should have shared the results with an update on Kickstarter. Indeed, one would have to wonder if this was a violation of Kickstarter requirements.


  • ThomasLMatula

    A free press, just as with other free markets, gives the market what it wants. If the users of news media wanted truthful, indepth and impartial news they would get it. But the evidence is that the vast majority prefer to support media that echos their views, attitudes, values, etc. News media, as with any other business, follows the numbers, or to be more precise, the cash flows.

    One mistake folks often have in regards to free markets is the belief they are someone ethical or “fair”. They are neither. They are just a mechanical interaction between supply and demand that provides the most efficient distribution of limited resources to satisfy unlimited needs. It is the regulation of free markets that impose an ethical dimension to them.

    I am sure many reporters enter the field with stars in their eyes about news reporting being fair and impartial. I know the textbooks I studied when I took journalism classes are full of it. But as with most idealism it fails to survive contact with the real world. Some leave the field when they find most folks don’t care. Others find a way to balance their vision with reality.

  • Paul451

    A free press, just as with other free markets, gives the market what it wants.

    Except the market is the advertisers. The readers/listeners/viewers are the product.

    One mistake folks often have in regards to free markets is the belief they are someone ethical or “fair”.

    Yet study after study shows that people have an innate sense of “fairness”, deeply embedded in the subconscious. (As do many social animals. Even monkeys hate cheaters.) Studies also show that people primarily make non-rational decisions about economic matters.

    So if unregulated markets gave people “what they want”, then markets would trend towards fairness, honesty, etc.

    And indeed, you only need to look at advertising to see the values that people have. They want value/quality, yes, but also fairness, kindness, family, community, etc.

    [markets] are just a mechanical interaction between supply and demand that provides the most efficient distribution of limited resources to satisfy unlimited needs.

    What garbage. There’s nothing about the underlying mechanisms of unregulated markets that requires them to “provide the most efficient distribution”.

    All real markets are subject for distortions. Limited information, limited time, uncosted externalities, deception/fraud, coercion, collusion.

    Hence, over time, it is the innate nature of all markets to drift towards monopoly, non-competing duopoly, or cartels. Unless there is an external corrective mechanism, there’s nothing inherent in market forces to prevent this trend.

  • Paul451

    Had the same reaction. Need a third option for “Yes, both.”

  • ThomasLMatula

    You forget that folks also pay for news services by subscription or buying publications, so it is not only advertising revenues. And if news services don’t have an audience they won’t have advertising revenue. So the audience is their prime market for their prime product “news”, advertising is a secondary market derived from it.

    Also, as you learn in Marketing 101, what folks claim they want and what they actually buy are two different things. Folks will usually provide answers on surveys that are socially acceptable. Some years ago a classic study was done comparing the results of a survey on alcohol consumption with supermarket scanner data for the same households. They found that on surveys folks claim to drink a lot less and claim to buy much higher quality brands than they actually do.

    And don’t forget what is fair also depends on who talk to. Everyone has their own opinion of “fair”, which of course is slanted in their favor.

    In the real world markets do suffer from distortions, but that still doesn’t change the fact that free markets are the most efficient means of distributing limited resources to match unlimited needs. All you need to do is look at the shortages and poverty of a command economy that attempts to prevent the working of free markets see the difference. Also recognize that most of those distortions come from governments, firms and individuals attempting to impose desired outcomes on the markets in the name of “fairness” to produce more socially acceptable and “ethical” outcomes as I noted above. Some work, other don’t.

  • Paul451

    So the audience is their prime market for their prime product “news”, advertising is a secondary market derived from it.

    No, the audience is not their “market”, certainly not their prime market. The audience is the resource that is being harvested and sold on in batches to advertisers.

    Folks will usually provide answers on surveys

    I didn’t say “surveys”. I wouldn’t have mentioned it if it was about surveys. There is a long history of behavioural analysis on economic decisions, through to empirical economics and experimentation. The results always contradict the “rational economics” predictions.

    Similarly, analysis of market behaviour does not support the idea that unregulated markets are somehow more “efficient” at distributing resources.

    Indeed, I’m not aware of any studies that support the mythologies that libertarians hold dear.