Deep Space Industries for Asteroid Mining
The company Deep Space Industries Inc. announced a plan to build the world's first fleet of asteroid prospecting vehicles. The goal is asteroid resources exploration and mining, for space industrialization and colonization, selling products and services to businesses and consumers in space and on Earth.
The plan is in stages:
- Build and launch tiny "Firefly" probes to rendezvous with asteroids near Earth to analyze their compositions, starting in 2015. These probes will be small at around 25 kg, and launched cheaply as secondary payloads hitching a ride on rockets putting much larger satellites into space, following the CubeSat standard for piggyback cargo.
- Build and launch somewhat larger "Dragonfly" probes to return samples from asteroids near Earth, starting in 2016. The return samples would be in the tens of kilograms and arrive a few years later.
- Send spacecraft out to chosen asteroids near Earth to start manufacturing things from them. The company announced a 3D printing process they are developing for making a variety of parts from asteroidal free metal. They mentioned selling fuel propellants to be used for commercial communications satellite stationkeeping, supplying government projects, solar power satellites, and various other products and services which would be sold from asteroid mining.
The leaders of this asteroid mining effort are Rick Tumlinson and David Gump. Tumlinson has been a leading space development advocate for a few decades with involvement in SSI, the Space Frontier Foundation, FINDS, the attempted commercialization of Mir, space tourism, the X Prize, and a commercial space suit company named Orbital Outfitters as founder. Tumlinson for decades has aimed for lunar and asteroidal resources utilization for space colonization and industrialization. Gump is well known for previous lunar robotic mission projects, as covered elsewhere on this website, the Astrobotics lunar polar probe which is still ongoing, and the defunct LunaCorp Moon Rover Nomad.
Geoff Notkin, who is famous for his international TV series Meteorite Men, joined the Deep Space Industries Inc. team in January 2013, and was the moderator of their initial press conference on January 22 (a quick tall order). It seems that Notkin might handle a considerable amount of the public relations for the company. (Notkin is quite a diversely talented character, and among so many other things, a supporter of Sea Shepherd.)
Some highly experienced NASA contractors also joined the team, and the company has international participants.
A press conference announcement was delivered on January 22, 2013, in Santa Monica, California, where they introduced their plans, showed videos of the spacecraft concept, discussed a new space 3D printing manufacturing process, and reviewed the company's plans for mining asteroids for commercial applications. A main purpose of the press conference seemed to be to reach out to potential corporate sponsors and investors. They apparently have some corporate sponsorship already.
Tumlinson and Gump have been leading advocates of low cost space development by the private sector since the 1980s.
This new company has a website at DeepSpaceIndustries.com
Some people have viewed Space Industries Inc. as a competitor to Planetary Resources, Inc., but actually the two should turn out to be synergistic companies which can work for each other in the new space economy's ecosystem. Peter Diamandis, the prime mover for Planetary Resources, Inc., promoted the concept of creating a new economic sector in space, and is a longtime friend of Tumlinson and Gump. All of these people have an early history in the Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill / Space Studies Institute community which advocated space colonization and industrialization by lunar and asteroid mining.
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