Deep Space Industries Announces Prospector-1 Mission

Prospector-1 mission (Credit: DSI)
Prospector-1 mission (Credit: DSI)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (DSI PR) — Deep Space Industries announced today its plans to fly the world’s first commercial interplanetary mining mission. Prospector-1™ will fly to and rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid, and investigate the object to determine its value as a source of space resources. This mission is an important step in the company’s plans to harvest and supply in-space resources to support the growing space economy.

“Deep Space Industries has worked diligently to get to this point, and now we can say with confidence that we have the right technology, the right team, and the right plan to execute this historic mission,” said Rick Tumlinson, chairman of the board and co-founder of Deep Space Industries. “Building on our Prospector-X mission, Prospector-1 will be the next step on our way to harvesting asteroid resources.”

Recently, Deep Space Industries and its partner, the government of Luxembourg, announced plans to build and fly Prospector-X™, an experimental mission to low-Earth orbit that will test key technologies needed for low-cost exploration spacecraft. This precursor mission is scheduled to launch in 2017. Then, before the end of this decade, Prospector-1 will travel beyond Earth’s orbit to begin the first space mining exploration mission.

“Our Prospector missions will usher in a new era of low cost space exploration” said Grant Bonin, chief engineer at DSI. “We are developing Prospector-1 both for our own asteroid mining ambitions, but also to bring an extremely low-cost, yet high-performance exploration spacecraft to the market. At a tiny fraction of what traditional custom-built space probes cost, the Prospector platform has the versatility and ruggedness of design to become the new standard for low cost space exploration.”

Prospector-1 is a small spacecraft (50 kg when fueled) that strikes the ideal balance between cost and performance. In addition to radiation-tolerant payloads and avionics, all DSI spacecraft use the Comet™ water propulsion system, which expels superheated water vapor to generate thrust. Water will be the first asteroid mining product, so the ability to use water as propellant will provide future DSI spacecraft with the ability to refuel in space.

“During the next decade, we will begin the harvest of space resources from asteroids,” said Daniel Faber, CEO at Deep Space Industries. “We are changing the paradigm of business operations in space, from one where our customers carry everything with them, to one in which the supplies they need are waiting for them when they get there.”

The destination asteroid will be chosen from a group of top candidates selected by the world renowned team of asteroid experts at Deep Space Industries. When it arrives at the target, the Prospector-1 spacecraft will map the surface and subsurface of the asteroid, taking visual and infrared imagery and mapping overall water content, down to approximately meter-level depth. When this initial science campaign is complete, Prospector-1 will use its water thrusters to attempt touchdown on the asteroid, measuring the target’s geophysical and geotechnical characteristics.

“The ability to locate, travel to, and analyze potentially rich supplies of space resources is critical to our plans,” continued Faber. “This means not just looking at the target, but actually making contact.”

Along with customer missions already in progress, such as the cluster of small satellites being built by DSI for HawkEye 360, the Prospector missions will demonstrate the company’s simple, low-cost, but high-performance approach to space exploration. The Prospector platform is now available to government and commercial explorers interested in developing sophisticated, yet low-cost missions of their own.

“Prospector-1 is not only the first commercial interplanetary mission, it is also an important milestone in our quest to open the frontier,” said Tumlinson. “By learning to ‘live off the land’ in space, Deep Space Industries is ushering in a new era of unlimited economic expansion.”

More detailed information about the Prospector program, including the Prospector-X (eXperimental) and Prospector-1 missions, and the DSI technologies that are making these missions possible, can be found on the company’s website:

  • mzungu

    The combined mass of all the asteroid in the solar system is just 4% of the moon, and .05% of the Earth…. Unless you wanna mine white gold out of the ether, I think wanna aim it to where the largest concentration of mass is….

  • gopher652003

    Many asteroids are much richer in heavy elements than Earth is. On Earth, everything heavier than silicon fell to the core while the planet was still liquid. Everything heavy in the crust is the result of asteroid impacts. This process didn’t occur in smaller asteroids because they cooled to quickly, while on larger ones (except Ceres) the cores are already solidified, so they make a fantastic mining target.

  • mzungu

    Just the back of envelope… looking at mass ratio, those concentration better be at 2,000 times higher than here on Earth…. Are they even close?

  • JamesG

    In many cases the elements are in pure, unoxidized or alloyed state. Also asteroids have such weak gravity that the DV cost of “landing” and departing from them is trivial. Not so with any of the large bodies. And even the small asteroids are floating mountains of thousands or millions of tons of material.

  • mzungu

    Hahaha…Gravity might be low, but most asteroids are in such wacky out of plane orbit. the Delta-V to go there and back are pretty prohibitive.

    Last I look the concentration of these minerals are at maybe 10-20 times higher than Earth averages… so you going to have to wait a few century for the price of that to drop to a point where it is economical.

    I was just talking about the mass concentration(this assuming you bring all the mass of the Belt into one place), and not even the volume concentration. where these asteroid are actually scattered all over gazillion of cubic km that you need drive that space bulldozer to go prospecting…. That brings the number down to like 0.000…0005%

    Good luck with that, I think I wait for them volcanic eruptions to spew up more of my kryptonite. 😀

  • JamesG

    Err…. whatever.

  • Paul451

    We can only get to the top few km of the Earth’s crust. Which is roughly 0.05% of the Earth’s mass. And most of that is inaccessible for other reasons (such as the two thirds that is at the bottom of the ocean, beyond our current ability to work.) Similar numbers for the moon.

  • gopher652003

    DV for many NEOs is less than what you’d need to travel to Luna. A bigger problem is the fact that many asteroids spin prohibitively fast. You’d either need to despin them (which you wouldn’t… that’s stupid) or match spins, which is difficult. Plus, once you match spins, you have to despin anything you’re sending elsewhere (still resource intensive, but you can despin stuff a bit at a time as you can afford it, rather than doing the whole object at once).

    There are candidate NEOs that have good DV profiles, low spin, and an appropriate composition (probably…) for mining, but only a few.

    The good thing is that those “easy target” NEOs will give us the experience and resources we need to tackle the more difficult NEOs, and the asteroids further out. But for now, low hanging fruit first:).