Planetary Resources Shelves Arkyd Space Selfies Due to Lack of Funding

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

Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources sent out the following cancellation and refund message today has been sent to supporters of its ARKYD Kickstarter. The campaign raised money so people could send pictures of themselves into space that would be displayed with Earth in the background.

According to the message, Planetary Resources was only going to launch the satellite if it got other people to give them even more money to fly the mission. That funding was which was not forthcoming from the multiple billionaires that back Planetary Resources (Larry Page, Eric Schmidt and Richard Branson among them) or anyone else the company targeted for funding.

The announcement comes as Planetary Resources has closed a $21.1 million funding round to pay for a different satellite constellation named Ceres, which is “an advanced Earth observation business that features the first commercial infrared and hyperspectral sensor platform to better understand and manage humanity’s natural resources.” (Interesting, Page co-led the funding round for Ceres.)

The mission cancellation is another setback for the company’s Arkyd line of satellites. The first Arkyd Cubesat it sent up for deployment from the International Space Station was lost when an Orbital ATK Antares rocket exploded in October 2014.

Planetary Resources deployed a replacement Arkyd satellite from the International Space Station last July. But, it’s not clear whether that satellite performed as planned. There were no public updates from the company about its progress after deployment. The spacecraft reentered the Earth’s atmosphere at the end of last year with no mention of that event.  The lack of updates leads me to believe the satellite failed.

Final Update and FULL Refund

Greetings ARKYD backers!

When we announced plans for our crowdfunding campaign, “ARKYD: A Space Telescope for Everyone,” the support from the Kickstarter community was (and still is) amazing! Our goal was lofty, and with your support, we raised a record-setting US$1.5 million in funds to support it. Thank you so much for the constant encouragement. You’ve provided us the support to try out a bold new idea with the potential for huge impact both on and off this planet.

So far, we have fulfilled the many T-shirt, sticker, and poster Rewards. We’ve provided scores of memberships to The Planetary Society, codes for the video game Planetary Annihilation, and developed an educational rocket science board game in partnership with Xtronaut Enterprises. In addition to these Kickstarter-funded activities, we’ve also progressed on our company roadmap and built and launched two Arkyd-3 test spacecraft (the first didn’t make it very far off the ground!), and our two follow-on Arkyd-6 test satellites are finished and waiting for their next launch into space this summer. All this leads to the Arkyd 100 Space Telescope capability.

When we closed the campaign in June of 2013, we were confident that the tremendous enthusiasm from around the world would translate into continued financial support outside of the Kickstarter community to move our idea forward… but, what we discovered was unfortunate. Aside from all the progress we made in the underlying technology, the follow-on interest from the business and educational sectors to expand the ARKYD campaign into a fully-supported mission did not exist as we had anticipated. We have explored and exhausted a variety of opportunities big and small for the financial backing necessary to complete the project.

Due to the lack of necessary follow-on support, we are saddened to announce that we are unable to fulfill the “ARKYD: A Space Telescope for Everyone” campaign. While we regret we must wind-down the project, we are pleased that we can offer each of our 17,614 backers an immediate and FULL REFUND, with our sincere thanks for your longstanding support.

So what happens now?

You may request your refund according to the following refund policy and notification of refund:

Each ARKYD Kickstarter backer will receive an e-mail with a personalized refund link (do not share this link with anyone). Refund request submissions must be made to the company by following this personalized refund link. We have used the email you have currently have on file with Kickstarter, so if this is not correct, please reach out to us HERE.

Once you receive your personalized refund email, follow the instructions to complete the refund form. The form must be completed accurately and in its entirety. The refund form will provide you with options to claim your refund either by check or through PayPal. Refunds may take up to thirty (30) days to process. We reserve the right to verify information contained on the refund request form. Requests that include illegible, missing, or erroneous information may be returned to you for correction, which may cause delay in the issuance of your refund. We reiterate that you will receive a FULL REFUND, and will not be charged for any transaction fees or pledge rewards you may have already received. We have you covered.

You will have 45 days from Thursday May 26, 2016 to accurately and fully complete and submit to us your refund request form. We will not honor refund requests following the the deadline of Monday, 11 July 2016. Alternatively, you may mail your request form to us in hardcopy format to the following address: ATTN: ARKYD Kickstarter Refund, 6742 185TH AVE NE, Redmond, WA 98052. We are not responsible for lost or undeliverable mail. If you do not respond to this notification, as a courtesy we will make a reasonable effort to notify you of the refund offer. Ultimately, requesting a refund is your responsibility and we will make no further attempts to contact you following the deadline.

It is with heavy heart that we share this news. The Kickstarter community is stellar and we continue to be inspired by your passion as we make our way into the Cosmos. One of the things we enjoy most in building technology to explore space is sharing that journey with others. You can rest assured we will continue to take you on our journey as we make our way to the asteroids and beyond.

Sincerely,

Chris Lewicki

Your biggest fan & Chief Asteroid Miner, Planetary Resources, Inc.

  • Richard

    I’m a proponent of this company’s supposed goals, but Chris Lewicki and company have pulled off one of the shadier KickStarter bait-and-switches. I understand this new constellation is a logical move for your company, but at least you could have lived up to your commitments or been upfront about it. If you had changed your mind, you should have refunded us then, not the moment after you get better funding from another source. I’ll never trust another statement of humanity or charity again. You’re welcome for the 3-year interest free loan.

  • Randy Chung

    Planetary Resources has done an honorable thing by refunding the Kickstarter backers. There have been plenty of Kickstarter campaigns that have failed and the backers received nothing back. Planetary Resources built and launched two cubesats to fulfill their obligation, which costs money. It’s unfortunate that they both failed.
    They could have called it quits then, since there are no guarantees with a Kickstarter campaign, but they raised extra money to refund the Kickstarter backers. That’s hard — you have to tell the Board of Directors and the seed investors that they will have to take an extra dilution, not for furthering the business, but for goodwill to the smallest investors. It’s not often that the smallest investors get made whole.

  • Douglas Messier

    I never really liked the fact that they were on Kickstarter in the first place. I think crowd funding should be reserved for companies and ventures that actually need money. Given the backing that Planetary Resources has, they don’t fit into that category.

    These are guys that go to the World Economic Forum in Davos for a week and have the Swiss police shut down their party at 2 am. Davos is for the .1 percent. It’s enormously expensive. How much was spent on that trip?

    If I recall, the response to the objection that they shouldn’t be on Kickstarter at the time was that the money wasn’t really the object, it was to get the public involved. The selfie in space was the ultimate expression of that. If that’s the goal and the money doesn’t really matter, then follow through on the project.

    I wasn’t aware that the project would only go on if they could find other sponsors to give them even more money to build and launch the satellite. And I think Richard is right; this was a no-interest for 2.5 years.

  • Phil Naranjo

    Slight correction. PRI’s Arkyd 3 satellite was lost during the Antares rocket explosion in 2014. The Arkyd 3R, a near identical copy of the first satellite, was successfully deployed from the International Space Station last July. The mission was successful.

  • Randy Chung

    Well, if the Arkyd 3R was successful, where are the Kickstarter selfies?

  • Phil Naranjo

    Arkyd 3R was a technology demonstrator. The selfies were supposed to be taken by an Arkyd 100 series, third generation spacecraft. The 100 was to be outfitted with a telescope for capturing astronomical images for Kickstarter donors, in addition to the selfies.

  • Randy Chung

    OK, thanks for the correction.