Deep Space Industries Enters The Asteroid Mining Business

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Deep Space Industries

 Asteroid Mining
Hoping to capitalize on the abundance of space, another company has been announced that is planning to mine near-Earth asteroids.  Deep Space Industries hopes to launch prospecting missions with their "FireFly" spacecraft as soon as 2015.
On the heels of Planetary Resources founding last year, a new asteroid-mining company Deep Space Industries (DSI) has just announced plans to launch a fleet of "FireFly" spacecraft as soon as 2015. Their mission will be to find asteroids rich with valuable metals, that could help extend our footprint into space.

“This is the first commercial campaign to explore the small asteroids that pass by Earth,” said Deep Space Chairman Rick Tumlinson.

Tumlinson signed up the world’s first space tourist, led the team that took over the Mir space station, was a Founding Trustee of the X Prize, and Founded Orbital Outfitters, the world’s first commercial space suit company.

"Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development," said Deep Space CEO David Gump in a statement."

"More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year," said Gump. "They can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century - a key resource located near where it was needed. In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century. That is our strategy."

Asteroid Mining DSi

According to Deep Space, the FireFly will be the first in a diverse lineup of spacecraft designed to prospect for, harvest, and process water and rare earth metals from near-Earth asteroids. The FireFlies, specifically, will be made of economical "cubesat" components, weigh in at around 55 pounds each.

“My smartphone has more computing power than they had on the Apollo moon missions,” said Tumlinson. “We can make amazing machines smaller, cheaper, and faster than ever before. Imagine a production line of FireFlies, cocked and loaded and ready to fly out to examine any object that gets near the Earth.”
The FireFly will act like a scout, seeking out promising space rock and paving the way for the company's 70-pound Dragonfly spacecraft, which will return asteroid samples to Earth on missions set to launch some time in 2016 and last between two and four years.

MicroGravity Foundry - Deep Space Industries

Bringing back asteroid materials is only a step on the way to much bigger things for DSI. The company has a patent-pending technology called the MicroGravity Foundry to transform raw asteroid material into complex metal parts. The MicroGravity Foundry is a 3D printer that uses lasers to draw patterns in a nickel-charged gas medium, causing the nickel to be deposited in precise patterns.

“The MicroGravity Foundry is the first 3D printer that creates high-density high-strength metal components even in zero gravity,” said Stephen Covey, a co-Founder of DSI and inventor of the process. “Other metal 3D printers sinter powdered metal, which requires a gravity field and leaves a porous structure, or they use low-melting point metals with less strength.”

According to Deep Space, they have briefed senior leaders at NASA on DSI’s technologies, which would make eventual crewed Mars expeditions less expensive through the use of asteroid-derived propellant. Missions would require fewer launches if the fuel to reach Mars were added in space from the volatiles in asteroids. Mars missions also would be safer with a MicroGravity Foundry on board to print replacements for broken parts, or to create brand new parts invented after the expedition was on its way to the Red Planet.

Asteroid Mining

If all goes according to plan, Deep Space hopes to be harvesting water and metals within the decade, employing harvesting and fuel-processing spacecraft, to do it.

The company's business model closely resembles that of Planetary Resources — the only other major player in the brand new space-mining industry, which was launched in April of last year backed by big-money investors like James Cameron and Google's Eric Schmidt.  It appears that one of the biggest goals of Deep Space's announcement was to garner the interest of potential investors.

SOURCE  Deep Space Industries

By 33rd SquareSubscribe to 33rd Square