Planetary Resources Pivots Again

Well, it looks like our friends over at the asteroid mining firm Planetary Resources have pivoted once again.

You might recall that last June the company announced it had raised a Series A round of funding totaling $21.1 million for an Earth-observation project called Ceres. The constellation of satellites would monitor natural uses using the infrared and hyperspectral sensors.

In the five years since the company came out of stealth mode, it has pivoted from focusing on asteroid missions to remote sensing and now back to asteroid missions.

Foust didn’t report on the reason for the latest pivot. However, Planetary Resources main financial backer and partner is the government of Luxembourg, a postage-size country (as these things go) that doesn’t have a lot of use for natural resource monitoring, but is very interested in asteroid mining.

In November 2016, Luxembourg announced it was investing $28 million in Planetary Resources. The company also has set up an office in the European nation.

Foust did report that Lewicki, who is the company’s CEO, said two Arkyd-6 satellites are being readied for delivery in the next month for launch. The spacecraft will search for promising asteroids.

Lewicki also said the company plans to launch its first asteroid prospecting mission in the second half of 2020.

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  • Carlton Stephenson

    Luxembourg leaning hard. I wonder what Google got out of SpaceX so far for their $800M(?).

  • duheagle

    I seem to recall the Google money being $900 million. What they got was a piece of equity, of unknown size, in SpaceX. Are you, for some reason, under the impression that SpaceX is worth less today than it was at the time of said investment?

    Based on the investment track records of U.S.-based government entities – most any public employee union pension fund, for example – my opinion of government-based investment entities has not been very high. Given that Luxembourg’s government was also an early backer of SES, though, I think it’s sovereign investment fund managers have earned sufficient street cred to merit more than summary dismissal of their recent moves anent asteroid mining.

  • JamesG

    I believe Alphabet is in it for the swarm of debris small sat Internet constellation, not a generic investment in SpaceX, The Launch Service Provider.

  • JamesG

    Somethings getting mined here…

  • Carlton Stephenson

    Which is what I understood too, not generic equity. And I haven’t heard much about that swarm lately, which is why I was wondering.

    No knock in Sx or Google, BTW, just wondering, in the face of some hard driving investors like Lux. There are these guys and then there are those who lobby – and wait on – the government to spend so they can make a buck.

    I saw what you did there, btw 🙂

  • Carlton Stephenson

    Noooo, nothing of the sort. See my reply to James.

  • JamesG

    It depends on what you are angling for. If your bread ‘n butter is selling things to Gub’ment, then you create the demand and supply the solution.
    However,
    If the stock ‘n trade of your business is the data of the Internet, direct and meta, you want more data to sell, so you need to grow the Internet. And since the developed world is pretty much mined out (they know all they want to know about you and I), that means the other 2/3rds of personal information that isn’t on the web for them to get at. The simplist, most controlling means of doing that is via LEO sats. That is what the likes of Google and OneWeb are after, not the sats and not even the Internet provider biz.

  • Douglas C.

    I’ve never quite bought their fueling geosynchronous satellites business strategy. Geosync satellites mostly use hypergolic fuels (hydrazine for example). They do not use cryogenic propulsion systems so any water mined from an asteroid is of no use. Increasingly they are using electric propulsion as well.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    One things fore sure, the investment community they’ve plugged into is very very forgiving and flexible.

  • Vladislaw

    data miners

  • JamesG

    And ocean going ships used to run on coal too.

    Electric propulsion still needs reaction mass. Direct solar to thermal is an order of magnitude more efficient than solar to electric and can run on water or pretty much anything else you care to feed it (including hydrazine).

  • Tom Billings

    The GEO refueling was mentioned by DSI, IIRC. I find it more probable that the propellant that DSI brings back, whether just heated to hot H2O gas, or split into LHy/Lox, will be used on vehicles built high up on the gravity well at places like EML-1. That way they will gain maximum leverage from whatever they buy from DSI. If they are leaving for elsewhere, then fewer gravity losses *and* lower delta-v come from leaving EML-1 with a vehicle that need not withstand 6 gees boost, much less the vibration. “Just water” has many advantages if you need little delta-v. If they are descending to GEO, or even to LEO, then the greater impulse of LHy/Lox may be more useful.

    Do the markets being opened by Archinaut and SpiderFab actually get here soon enough to make a market for DSI and PR at EML-1? Well, ………….

  • Douglas C.

    Not sure what you are suggesting. A solar steam driven rocket? That is a new one. Never heard of that.
    Geosynchronous satellites are not a potential customer unless they completely redesign their propulsion systems. If you want your business case taken seriously you shouldn’t claim you can sell something to a non-existent client. That’s all I’m saying.
    For what it’s worth I have graduate degrees in aerospace engineering and planetary physics.

  • Douglas C.

    It would make a lot of sense if they were refueling some sort of space tug that delivered satellites to orbits.

  • JamesG

    Read their web sites and watch the groovie promo videos to get a sense of the epic time frames they are contemplating. Gotta love billionaires and their delusions of grandeur….

  • JamesG

    In this case more like data farmers.

  • duheagle

    SpaceX hasn’t been saying much about its LEO broadband project. But it recently said the first two test sats are planned for deployment next year with the first part of the constellation itself deployed in 2019.