Planetary Resources Hits Bump in the Road

Arkyd-6 spacecraft (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Alan Boyle at GeekWire reports that asteroid mining company Planetary Resources has been forced to make some cutbacks.

A spokeswoman for Planetary Resources, Stacey Tearne, told GeekWire that financial challenges have forced the company to focus on leveraging the Arkyd-6 mission for near-term revenue — apparently by selling imagery and data.

“Planetary Resources missed a fundraising milestone,” Tearne explained in an email. “The company remains committed to utilizing the resources from space to further explore space, but is focusing on near-term revenue streams by maximizing the opportunity of having a spacecraft in orbit.”

Tearne said no further information was available, and did not address questions about employment cutbacks. However, reports from other sources in the space community suggest there have been notable job reductions. For what it’s worth, Planetary Resources had more than 70 employees at last report.


Secondary Payloads Increasingly Take Center Stage

CubeSats (Credit: ESA/Medialab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On most launches, the small secondary satellites that ride along with the primary payloads garner little attention.

That has begun to change in recent years as CubeSats have become increasingly capable. The importance of these small satellites could be seen in the recent launch of an Indian PSLV rocket, which carried a CartoSat Earth observation satellite and 30 secondary spacecraft from India, Canada, Finland, France, Republic of Korea, UK and the United States.


Luxembourg, China Sign Cooperative Space Agreement

Chinese Academy of Sciences to establish a Research Laboratory in Luxembourg

LUXEMBOURG, January 16, 2018 (Luxembourg Government PR) – The Ministry of the Economy and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) signed today a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that provides a framework for the development and implementation of scientific, technical, economic and political cooperation between Luxembourg and China in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. The areas of potential cooperation include, but are not limited to economic, legal, regulatory and technological aspects of the utilization of space resources.

Furthermore, the Ministry of the Economy, represented by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy, Étienne Schneider and the National Space Science Center (NSSC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) signed a cooperation agreement to establish a Research Laboratory of Deep Space Exploration in Luxembourg. The National Space Science Center is China’s gateway to space science. It is the key institute responsible for planning, developing, launching and operating China’s space science satellite missions.

The Research Laboratory of Deep Space Exploration will be established as an independent legal entity in Luxembourg where it will carry out scientific research and technology development and thus contribute to achieving the objectives set forth within the initiative. Other main research fields of the Research Laboratory include universal interplanetary communications network related technology or advanced deep space communications technology. In a first stage, the Research Laboratory will employ at least 5 employees in Luxembourg.

Planetary Resources Launches Arkyd-6 CubeSat

Arkyd-6 spacecraft (Credit: Planetary Resources)

REDMOND, Wash., January 12, 2018 (Planetary Resources)Planetary Resources today announced the successful launch of the Arkyd-6, a 6U CubeSat, containing a demonstration of technology designed to detect water resources in space. The team has already begun to receive telemetry from the spacecraft. The data obtained from the Arkyd-6 will be valuable in the development of the Arkyd-301, Planetary Resources’ next spacecraft platform and the beginning of the company’s space resource exploration program.


Planetary Resources Guy Says: Space Resources Will Save Us All

Video Caption: You care about the future of our planet. You traded in your gas-guzzling SUV for a Prius and your Keurig for a Coffee Maker — and if enough of us do that, we’ll save the Earth, right? Well, we are dangerously close to collapsing our own ecosystem and we are running out of time.

In this persuasive talk, James Orsulak argues that the only way to really make a difference is to look up. James Orsulak serves as the Director of Business Development at Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company that has embarked on the world’s first commercial deep space exploration. The company focuses on technologies such as rocket propellant, water for life support functions, and construction materials sourced from asteroids.

Previously, James spent a decade developing industrial-scale fueling stations on Earth. He is an avid gardener who lives in Denver with his amazing wife, 2-year-old twins and a rambunctious Goldendoodle named Waffles. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Editor’s Note: Found out about this video from a Tweet by Peter Diamandis, who founded Planetary Resources. He praised the talk by one of his employees.

But, the whole thing is confusing. Peter’s been running around promoting his book Abundance, which posits that things are getting better all the time and that the exponential technologies that lie at the heart of the Singularity University he co-founded are making life better for all. His whole position is one of techno-optimism bordering on techno-euphoria.

Yet, this talk posits that Earth and humanity itself is doomed without asteroid mining. What if it doesn’t turn out to be the panacea that they claim it to be? What if it’s not profitable enough to ensure the investment required? Are we all still doomed?


Short List of Elements Space Miners Should Look for on Asteroids

In addition to searching for water for use in space, there are elements we’re running short on here on planet Earth.

Learn About Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-6 CubeSat

Video Caption: We’d like to introduce the Arkyd-6 spacecraft! This 6U cubesat is packed with power including 17 computing elements. The Arkyd-6 is part of our R&D program assisting us in the design of the Arkyd-301 spacecraft that will detect water on near-Earth asteroids.

UAE, Luxembourg Sign MOU on Space Exploration Cooperation

LUXEMBOURG, October 10, 2017 (Luxembourg PR) — Considering their common interest in the exploration, use and application of space for peaceful purposes, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) jointly agreed on the opportunity to cooperate on space activities. The Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, represented by the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy, Étienne Schneider, and the UAE, represented by the Minister of State for Higher Education and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, signed today in Abu Dhabi a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to start bilateral cooperation on space activities with particular focus on the exploration and utilization of space resources.


Planetary Resources Animation of Asteroid Survey Mission

Video Caption: Planetary Resources is embarking on the world’s first commercial deep space exploration mission. The purpose is to identify and unlock the critical water resources necessary for human expansion in space. Sourcing water is the first step to creating a civilization in space. Water is used for life support functions and can also be refined into rocket propellant. The initial mission will identify the asteroids that contain the best source of water, and will simultaneously provide the vital information needed to build a commercial mine which will harvest water for use in space.

Editor’s Note: This is very cool. But, when? I understand the need for promotional videos, but they often serve as placeholders. In lieu of an actual mission/demonstrable progress, here’s a video of what we’re going to do eventually. Here’s a profile of our ground crew.

I’m a little puzzled by Planetary Resources. It was formed on Jan. 1, 2009, and emerged from stealth mode in April 2012. They launched one CubeSat from the space station but said virtually nothing about it after launch (not a good sign). A follow-on Earth orbit tech demo sat was scheduled for 2015, but it still hasn’t launched. They announced a Kickstarter to display selfies in orbit but later canceled that mission and refunded the money. They announced an Earth orbiting constellation that would monitor crops from orbit. Then they canceled that program after raising $21.1 million in Series A investment to fund it.

They had this big press conference back in 2012 to announce it, and there was all this hype from Peter Diamandis and all these billionaires with more money than God involved. I would have expected more progress by now, and that the company backed by so many immensely wealthy people wouldn’t be so dependent on government funding from Luxembourg.

The company has been advertising on social media that they’re hiring, so that seems to be a good sign.

NASA Selects Economic Research Studies to Examine Investments in Space

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five new research proposals to understand the effective drivers of investments in the global space economy, encouraging non-traditional companies, as well as traditional aerospace companies, to look beyond satellites for new opportunities in commercial space development.

“Our space technology work is focused on providing new capabilities for robotic and human exploration of the solar system, but we are also here to help enable new commercial markets or enterprises,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA. “The results of these studies provide insights into the potential economic impacts of new space-based capabilities and applications which in turn helps guide our investments in technology development.”


Luxembourg Parliament Adopts Space Resources Law

LUXEMBOURG, July 13, 2017  (Luxembourg Government PR) – The Luxembourg Parliament adopted the draft law on the exploration and use of space resources. The Grand Duchy is thus the first European country to offer a legal framework ensuring that private operators can be confident about their rights on resources they extract in space. The law will come into force on August 1, 2017. Its first article provides that space resources are capable of being owned. The country’s law also establishes the procedures for authorizing and supervising space exploration missions.