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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Matthew Isakowitz

Matthew Isakowitz

Some very sad news to report. Matthew Isakowitz passed away on May 25. He was 29.

Matthew served as associate director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) for three years after graduating from Princeton University in 2009. While an undergraduate, he worked for two months at SpaceX on the Dragon spacecraft.

After leaving CSF, Matthew worked at the asteroid mining company, Planetary Resources. More recently, he was working at Astranis, a startup focused on building small, low-cost telecommunications satellites that would deliver Internet connectivity to areas of Earth not currently being served.

Matthew was the son of Steve Isakowitz, who is president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation. He is survived by his mother, Monica, and three sisters: Jennifer, Rachel, and Sophie.

Future Space Leaders is collecting donations for a “to-be-announced initiative that will further Matthew’s legacy in the field of human space exploration.”

Matthew’s Obituary

Editor’s Note: My deepest sympathies to Matthew’s family for their loss. It’s terrible to lose someone so young. His contributions to advancing space exploration will not be forgotten.

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Planetary Resources Hires Lawyer

REDMOND, Wa., May 22, 2017 (Planetary Resources PR) – Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, announced today that it has named Brian Israel as General Counsel. Mr. Israel will oversee the legal, regulatory, and compliance functions for the company, its parent, and Planetary Resources Luxembourg. The company’s vision is to expand humanity’s economic sphere of influence into the Solar System by providing resources for people and products in space, with a near-term goal of identification, extraction, and refinement of water from near-Earth asteroids.

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Ted Cruz to Conduct Hearing on Outer Space Treaty


Reopening the American Frontier:

Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space

Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Live webcast: www.commerce.senate.gov.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled “Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

This hearing will examine U.S. government obligations under the Outer Space Treaty on its 50th anniversary, specifically compliance with Article VI of the Treaty that requires governments to authorize and continually supervise the activities of non-government entities. This hearing will also explore the Treaty’s potential impacts on expansion of our nation’s commerce and settlement in space.

Witness Panel 1:

  • Mr. James E. Dunstan, Founder, Mobius Legal Group, PLLC
  • Ms. Laura Montgomery, Attorney and Proprietor, Ground Based Space Matters, LLC
  •  Mr. Matthew Schaefer, Co-Director of Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program University of Nebraska College of Law

Witness Panel 2:

  • Mr. Mike Gold, Vice President, Washington Operations, Space Systems Loral
  • Mr. Peter Marquez, Vice President of Global Engagement, Planetary Resources
  • Colonel Pamela Melroy, Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired and Former Astronaut
  • Mr. Bob Richards, Founder and CEO, Moon Express

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Luxembourg to Launch a Fund Offering Financial Support for Space Resources Industry

LUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg Government PR – To promote Luxembourg as a European hub for the exploration and commercial use of space resources, the Ministry of the Economy conducted from April 9th to April 13th an economic mission headed by Luxembourg’s Crown Prince to the U.S. West Coast. The mission aimed to identify and develop new business opportunities and to promote the governmental SpaceResources.lu initiative that offers an attractive overall framework for space resource utilization related activities, including but not limited to the legal regime to provide private companies and investors with a secure legal environment as of the ownership of resources gathered in space.

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Spaceflight Reschedules Launch of 89 Satellites

SHERPA space tug. (Credit: Spaceflight, Inc.)

While Elon Musk keeps adding missions to the moon and Mars to SpaceX’s already crowded launch manifest, a Seattle company has been forced to find alternative rides to space for 89 satellites originally booked to launch on a Falcon 9 booster.

The small spacecraft were set to be deployed using Spaceflight’s SHERPA carrier, which would have been a secondary payload on Taiwan’s Formosat-5 satellite. The launch was originally scheduled for the end of 2015, but it recently suffered yet another delay.

“We found each of our customers an alternative launch that was within the same time frame,” [Spaceflight’s President, Curt ] Blake wrote. “It took a huge effort, but within two weeks, the team hustled to have all customers who wanted to be rebooked confirmed on other launches!”

[…]

Spaceflight was anticipating that the launch would finally take place around May or June, but Blake said SpaceX “recently communicated their 2017 manifest, and the impact on the Formosat-5 mission is significant.”

“We learned our launch would occur potentially much later than expected,” he said. By some accounts, the Formosat-5 mission has been shifted into 2018. That’s what led Spaceflight to look at alternatives….

The payloads that had been scheduled for deployment from the SHERPA carrier include Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 6 satellite, which is designed to test a midwave-infrared imaging system; and the Pathfinder-2 satellite, an Earth-observing spacecraft that serves as a prototype for Spaceflight Industries’ BlackSky constellation.

Luxembourg Government Becomes a Key Shareholder of Planetary Resources

luxembourg_flag-svgLUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg PR)–The Luxembourg Government, the public-law banking institution “Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement” (SNCI) and U.S.-based space technology company Planetary Resources have signed a 25 million euro investment and cooperation agreement within the framework of Luxembourg’s SpaceResources.lu initiative which aims at the exploration and the commercial utilization of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids.

Within this agreement, the Luxembourg Government invests direct capital in Planetary Resources, Inc. and the Ministry of Economy is providing funding through different types of R&D grants.

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Planetary Resources Finalizes 25 Million Euro Investment

planetary_resourcesREDMOND, Washington, November 3, 2016 (Planetary Resources PR) – Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today that it has finalized a 25 million euro [$27.75 million] agreement that includes direct capital investment of 12 million euros and grants of 13 million euros from the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the banking institution Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement (SNCI).

The funding will accelerate the company’s technical advancements with the aim of launching the first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by 2020. This milestone fulfilled the intent of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Grand Duchy and its SpaceResources.lu initiative that was agreed upon this past June.

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Links to Parabolic Arc’s Coverage of Small Satellite 2016 Conference

SkyFire’s new infrared technology will help NASA enhance its knowledge of the lunar surface. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
SkyFire’s new infrared technology will help NASA enhance its knowledge of the lunar surface. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

The Small Satellite 2016 Conference is now over. Below are links to Parabolic Arc’s coverage of the conference and the CubeSat Workshop that preceded it last weekend. There are also links to announcements made during the conference and in recent weeks.

Small Satellite Conference Coverage

Recent Smallsat News & Announcements

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Smallsat 2016: Updates on Planetary Resources, HawkEye 360

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

Planetary Resources and Hawkeye 360 gave updates on the remote sensing satellites they are planning to launch. The summaries below are courtesy of the following Tweeters:

  • Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust
  • David Hurst ‏@OrbitalDave
  • brianweeden ‏@brianweeden
  • Eric Anderson ‏@AndOneTech

Planetary Resources
Hannah Goldberg

  • Currently testing midwave infrared (IR) instrument using a Cessna aircraft
  • Two Arkyd-6 CubeSats will test IR instruments in space
  • First Arkyd-6 satellite to launch in Fall 2016, second in early 2017
  • Constellation of 10 larger Ceres spacecraft designed for Earth remote sensing
  • Hope to have Ceres constellation by 2018

HawkEye 360
Daniel CaJacob

  • Pathfinder constellation with 3 microsats flying in formation designed to triangulate radio frequency (RF) emissions from the ground
  • Launch of first 3 microsats planned for fourth quarter 2017
  • Deep Space Industries is prime contractor for satellites
  • University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory is supplying the satellite bus
  • Satellites are pathfinders for a full commercial constellation of RF mapping and analytics system
  • Technology uses: ionospheric study, spectrum mapping, asset and natural resources monitoring, emergency response

A Closer Look at Which Space Companies U.S. VC’s are Investing in

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s new publication, “Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit,” consists of a series of papers that examines a number of important policy questions that will be of rising importance as NASA transitions human spaceflight in LEO to the private sector.

One of the papers, “Venture Capital Activity in the Low-Earth Orbit Sector,”
has detailed information on what U.S. venture capitalists have invested in. Key excerpts from the paper follow.
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Entrepreneurial Lingo Lesson: The Pivot

twist_chubby1_disrupt copy
First in an irregular series on entrepreneurial buzz words

Come on let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

Do you remember when,
ROI was really hummin’,
Yeaaaah, let’s pivot again,
Pivotin’ time is here!

Heeee, and round and round til IPO we go!
Oh, baby, make those investors love us so!

Let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

There comes a time in the existence of many startups when there an urgent need to change direction. You set up the company to pursue a goal, but for one reason or several — a lack of a market, shortage of investment, regulatory hurdles, a flawed concept — you have to direct all that talent, technology and enthusiasm toward a new objective that will keep the company in operation.

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Planetary Resources Signs MOU With Luxembourg Government, Bank

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

REDMOND, Wash., USA,  June 13, 2016 (Planetary Resources PR) – Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the banking institution Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement (SNCI).

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SpaceResources.lu: New Law to Provide Framework for Space Resource Utilization

Asteroid Eros
Asteroid Eros

LUXEMBOURG CITY (Luxembourg Government PR) — The Luxembourg Government forges ahead with the SpaceResources.lu initiative by presenting an overall strategy to be implemented progressively for the exploration and commercial utilization of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids. Amongst the key actions undertaken is the establishment of an appropriate legal and regulatory framework for space resource utilization activities to provide private companies and investors with a secure legal environment.

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Planetary Resources, Bayer Sign MOU on Space Data

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

MONHEIM, Germany, May 31, 2016 (Bayer/Planetary Resources PR) – Bayer and the aerospace technology company Planetary Resources, based in Redmond, Washington, USA, have signed a memorandum of understanding about the development of applications and products based on satellite images. Bayer intends to purchase these data from Planetary Resources to create new agricultural products and improve existing ones. The collaboration will be part of the Digital Farming Initiative at Bayer (www.digitalfarming.bayer.com). Financial details were not disclosed.

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