Planetary Resources Announces $21.1 Million Funding Round For Sat Constellation

Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)

REDMOND, Wash.,  May 26, 2016 (Planetary Resources PR) – Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today that it has secured US$21.1 million in Series A funding. The capital will be used to deploy and operate Ceres, an advanced Earth observation business that features the first commercial infrared and hyperspectral sensor platform to better understand and manage humanity’s natural resources.

The funding was led by Bryan Johnson and the OS FUND; and joined by Idea Bulb Ventures; Tencent; Vast Ventures; Grishin Robotics; Conversion Capital; The Seraph Group; Space Angels Network, a syndication of investors from Angel.co; and Larry Page. Earth observation will be another aspect of Planetary Resources’ operations in addition to prospecting and mining asteroids.

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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.

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Mojave Journal: The Ansari X Prize’s Awkward Family Reunion

Ansari X Prize 10th anniversary panel discussion on Oct. 4, 2014.
Ansari X Prize 10th anniversary panel discussion on Oct. 4, 2014.

One Year Ago, the Ansari X Prize Turned 10
It Was an Uncomfortable Birthday

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The planes kept coming and coming. One after another, they swooped out of a blue desert sky and touched down on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. By mid-morning there were at least a dozen private jets stretched along the flight line running east from the Voyager restaurant toward the control tower. And even more were on their way.

And to what did Mojave owe this ostentatious display of wealth by the 1 percenters? They had come to the sun-splashed spaceport last Oct. 4 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ansari X Prize. A decade earlier, Burt Rutan and his Paul Allen-funded team had won $10 million for sending the first privately-built manned vehicle into space twice within a two-week period.

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Musk, Page, Bezos & Branson Lead List of Disruptive Innovators

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SpaceX’s Elon Musk, Google’s Larry Page, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos and Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson has been named the most effective CEO’s in achieving disruptive innovation among established companies in a new survey.

The poll was conducted by Big Think, where important people ponder big things, and the Singularity University, which puts the exponent in  exponential technology.  The poll was apparently taken in January and involved an unidentified number of Singularity University program participants.

The four men, who are heavily invested in various space projects,  beat out such business luminaries as Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Jack Ma of Alibaba.

Number of Billionaires Investing in Space Projects Grows

Forbes has published its annual list of the planet’s billionaires. A small but growing number of them are either directly supporting major space projects or doing so through the companies that they run.

FORBES RANKNAMEAGE
2015 NET WORTH (BILLIONS)
SOURCE(S) OF WEALTH
SPACE INVESTMENT(S)
 15Jeff Bezos51 $34.8Amazon.comBlue Origin
16Mark Zuckerberg30
 $33.4FacebookGlobal satellite network
19Larry Page41$29.7 GoogleSpaceX, Planetary Resources, Planetary Ventures, Google Lunar X Prize, Skybox
20Sergey Brin 41 $29.2GoogleSpaceX, Planetary Ventures, Google Lunar X Prize, Skybox
43Charles Ergen62$19.8DISH NetworkDISH Network
51Paul Allen62 $17.5 Microsoft, investmentsStratolaunch Systems, SETI, Mojave Aerospace Ventures (SpaceShipOne)
100Elon Musk43$12PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, SolarCitySpaceX
137Eric Schmidt59$9.1GoogleSpaceX, Google Lunar X Prize, Planetary Ventures, Skybox
330Richard Branson
64$4.8Virgin GroupVirgin Galactic, Planetary Resources, OneWeb
1006Kavitark Ram Shriram58$1.9Google, venture capitalPlanetary Resources
1105H. Ross Perot, Jr.56$1.8 Computer services, real estatePlanetary Resources
1324Charles Simonyi 67$1.4MicrosoftPlanetary Resources
1415Peter Sperling55$1.3University of PhoenixEcliptic Enterprises

I’ve added Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook to the list this year. His company is reportedly working on a global broadband network that would involve satellites, although details of the plan have not been made public.

I’ve left off Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberte, who came in at number 1006 with a net worth of $1.9 billion. Although he once took a trip to the International Space Station, he is not known to be funding any major space projects at the moment.

Update: I’ve added Charles Ergen and Peter Sperling to the list. Big shout out to Rex Ridenoure over at Ecliptic Enterprises.

Planetary Resources Does Davos

planetary_resources
Fortune Magazine’s Stephen Gandel is over in Davos, Switzerland this week, hobnobbing with the rich, famous and brilliant attendees who meet to contemplate solutions to the planet’s many problems at the World Economic Forum.

He has an entertaining piece about bumping into Planetary Resources’ President (and Chief Asteroid Miner) Chris Lewicki at a wine bar. Apparently, their discussion didn’t go much deeper than a description of the company’s plans to mine water and other materials from the Solar System’s orbiting piles of rock.

After I asked a few more questions about his company—like “is there really a lot of demand right now for gas stations and bottle water in outer space?”—Lewiski told me to stop being a critic. Every industry, he said, has to start somewhere. Yes. Dream big. This is Davos, after all.

That’s funny. And pretty impressive. Most start-ups lack the funds and connections to attend such an exclusive gathering. But, if you’re backed by multiple billionaires that include Eric Schmidt and Larry Page from Google, that’s not really a problem.

Is a Google-Virgin Galactic Deal in the Works?

virgin_branson_pomerantz_hangout
While Elon Musk’s lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force has dominated the headlines, another development with the potential to restructure the space industry has flown completely under the radar: a deepening relationship between Virgin Galactic and Google.

Overt the past month, Virgin Galactic conducted a series of Google Hangouts about its space tourism program in conjunction with the Google Science Fair. One hangout featured VG Vice President William Pomerantz and Richard Branson’s son, Sam; a second had three engineers live from The Spaceship Company’s FAITH hangar in Mojave, Calif; and a third featured two ticket holders who will be aboard future SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism flights.

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Is Google Planning Son of Teledesic?

A P3 Navy aircraft with Hangar One at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.  (Copyright 2008: Douglas Messier)
A P3 Navy aircraft with Hangar One at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. (Copyright 2008: Douglas Messier)

Clark Lindsey over at New Space Watch  reports on the following rumor from Silicon Valley:

NSG Analysts have heard from several usually reliable industry sources that a major company, possibly “Google or Facebook,” could be announcing the launch of a very large constellation of satellites in the near future.

“Very large constellation” is defined as up to 1,600 small satellites. Based on information Parabolic Arc has received, the story seems to be true. Google appears to be pursuing a plan to provide global broadband services that is similar to a failed attempt by a company called Teledesic.

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Not Many Billionaires Focused on Commercial Space

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Richard Branson and then-Gov. Bill Richardson. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Forbes has released its annual list of the world’s billionaires. There are a record 1,426 individuals with an aggregate net worth of $5.4 trillion in the world. The table below shows the tiny handful of this group — nine individuals — who are currently or have been previously involved in space projects.

RankNameNet Worth (Billions)AgeNationalityCompany/
Business
Space Project(s)

19

Jeff Bezos$25.249AmericanAmazon.com CEO, FounderBlue Origin

20

Larry Page$23.039AmericanGoogle CEO, Co-founderGoogle Lunar X Prize, Planetary Resources
21Sergey Brin$22.839AmericanGoogle Co-founderGoogle Lunar X Prize
53Paul Allen$15.060AmericanMicrosoft Co-founderStratolaunch, SpaceShipOne
SETI array
138Eric Schmidt$8.257AmericanGoogle ChairmanGoogle Lunar X Prize, Planetary Resources
272Richard Branson$4.662BritishVirgin Group CEO, FounderVirgin Galactic
527Elon Musk$2.741AmericanPayPal, Tesla Motors, Solar CitySpaceX
831Guy Laliberte$1.853CanadianCirque du SoleilSpace tourist
1031H. Ross Perot, Jr.$1.454Americancomputer services, real estatePlanetary Resources

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Private Sector Seeks Profit, Adventure Beyond Earth Orbit

golden_spike_lander
Credit: Golden Spike Company

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

With human flights beyond Earth orbit not expected to occur for at least eight years, the private sector is increasingly eying deep space for a series of ambitious robotic and human missions for both adventure and profit.

Nine programs are currently underway that include robotic and human landings of the moon, human flybys of the moon and Mars, the mining of the moon and asteroids, and even a settlement on Mars. Backers of these initiatives include the X Prize Foundation, Google and its executives, and the world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito.

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Planetary Resources Unveils Asteroid Mining Plan

Seattle, Wash. – Planetary Resources PRApril 24, 2012  – Planetary Resources, Inc. announced today its plan to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals. Through the development of cost-effective exploration technologies, the company is poised to initiate prospecting missions targeting resource-rich asteroids that are easily accessible.

Resource extraction from asteroids will deliver multiple benefits to humanity and grow to be valued at tens of billions of dollars annually. The effort will tap into the high concentration of precious metals found on asteroids and provide a sustainable supply to the ever-growing population on Earth.

A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history.

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New Study Says Asteroid Retrieval and Mining Feasible With Existing and Near-Term Technologies

Illustration of an asteroid retrieval spacecraft in the process of capturing a 7-m, 500-ton asteroid. (Image Credit: Rick Sternbach / KISS)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

A new study sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) has concluded that it would be possible to return an asteroid weighing approximately 500 metric tons to high lunar orbit where it would be mined for resources by 2025.

The Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study, published on April 2, was prepared for KISS, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Co-leaders of the study included John Brophy of NASA JPL/Caltech, Fred Culick of Caltech, and Louis Friedman of The Planetary Society and participants included representatives of other NASA centers, various universities, institutes and private companies.

The report may provide a preview of what a new company named Planetary Resources spearheaded by the X PRIZE Foundation’s Peter Diamandis will unveil during a press conference in Seattle next Tuesday. Two of the 34 study participants were Planetary Resources President and Chief Engineer Chris Lewicki and former astronaut Tom Jones, who is an adviser to the company. The start-up – which is backed by Google billionaires Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Microsoft mogul Charles Simonyi, filmmaker James Cameron, and Ross Perot, Jr. – says it will “overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources’.”

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Diamandis, Anderson and Simonyi to Launch Extraterrestrial Mining Company

MEDIA ALERT

Join visionary Peter H. Diamandis, M.D.; leading commercial space entrepreneur Eric Anderson; former NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki; and planetary scientist & veteran NASA astronaut Tom Jones, Ph.D. on Tuesday, April 24 at 10:30 a.m. PDT in Seattle, or via webcast, as they unveil a new space venture with a mission to help ensure humanity’s prosperity.

Supported by an impressive investor and advisor group, including Google’s Larry Page & Eric Schmidt, Ph.D.; film maker & explorer James Cameron; Chairman of Intentional Software Corporation and Microsoft’s former Chief Software Architect Charles Simonyi, Ph.D.; Founder of Sherpalo and Google Board of Directors founding member K. Ram Shriram; and Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group Ross Perot, Jr., the company will overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources’.

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SpaceX’s Elon Musk Makes Debut on Forbes Billionaire’s List

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Elon Musk has made his first appearance on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires. The 40-year-old entrepreneur has landed at 634 on the list with an estimated net worth of $2 billion.

Musk has developed the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon vehicle to send cargo and crew to the International Space Station. His company, SpaceX, has received money under NASA’s COTS  (for cargo) and CCDev (crew) programs. He is also reported to have invested up to $100 million of his own funds into SpaceX.

In addition to his involvement with SpaceX, Musk is a trustee of the X PRIZE Foundation, whose space competitions include the Ansari X Prize, the Google Lunar X Prize and the Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

The South African-born entrepreneur also runs two other companies, the electric car producer Tesla Motors and SolarCity, which provides solar energy systems.

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Space Cadets on Forbes’ Top 400 Billionaires List

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Google co-founder Sergey Brin (center, full head of hair) on a parabolic flight.

Forbes has come out with its list of top 400 American billionaires. Four prominent men involved in backing high-profile space ventures are on the list:

#11 Sergey Brin, Google Co-Founder
Net Worth: $15.3 billion

#11 Larry Page, Google Co-Founder
Net Worth: $15.3 billion

#17 Paul Allen, SpaceShipOne backer
Net Worth: $11.5 billion

#28 Jeffrey Bezos, Amazon.com and Blue Origin Founder
Net Worth: $8.8 billion