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article imageDeep Space Industries plans to mine near-Earth asteroids by 2025

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jan 23, 2013 in Technology
A firm called Deep Space Industries was launched Tuesday. The company plans to pioneer efforts to colonize other parts of our solar system by building robotic spacecraft that can mine precious metals like nickel and platinum from near-Earth asteroids.
According to Space.com, the company announced on Tuesday that it plans to launch a first fleet of prospecting spacecraft in 2015 and if things go as planned, it will begin harvesting metals and water from near-Earth asteroids by 2025.
Company officials said the project would help humanity establish refueling and spacecraft construction sites in space, thus helping to establish a firmer foothold to conquer new frontiers in space.
Scified reports that asteroids are believed to be rich in natural resources used in the building and manufacturing industry. According to Deep Space Industries: "The resource potential of space outstrips that of any previous frontier – without the environmental impacts."
The resources include metals like nickel, cobalt, platinum and ice. Ice can be broken down into its component hydrogen and oxygen for making rocket fuel.
EarthSky.org reports that the CEO of Deep Space is David Gump, "who produced the first TV commercial shot on the International Space Station for RadioShack."
EarthSky.org reports Gump, said in a statement: "Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development... More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year. 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."
Artist s conception of Dragonfly
Artist's conception of Dragonfly
Deep Space Industries
According to Space.com, Deep Space Industries is the second company in less than a year to announce it will join the near-Earth asteroid-mining gold rush. Planetary Resources Inc. made a similar announcement in April 2012. The company said it plans to launch a demonstration mission to Earth orbit in two years.
Deep Space Industries plans to build "the world's first fleet of commercial asteroid-prospecting spacecraft." The company has named the first set of spacecraft it plans to build Firefly. This, according to EarthSky.org, is a tribute to the Firefly TV series, 2002/2003. The Firefly fleet will be made from low-cost CubeSat components.
The 55-pound (25 kilograms) spacecraft will fly missions in search of potential mining asteroids. The first Firefly spacecraft are scheduled for launch in 2015. According to company officials, Firefly spacecraft will save costs by hitching a ride to space aboard rockets that carry communications satellites.
Rick Tumlinson is the company chairman. He signed up the world’s first space tourist and founded the world’s first commercial space suit company Orbital Outfitters.
Dragonfly will have a picker to capture asteroids for mining
Dragonfly will have a picker to capture asteroids for mining
Deep Space Industries
Tumlinson said in a statement: "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 fleet will precede a fleet of 70-pound (32 kg) spacecraft called Dragonfly which are scheduled to start operating in 2016. The Dragonflies will bring asteroid samples back to Earth. The samples will help the company assess potential mining targets. Some of the rock samples will also be sold to researchers and collectors. The company plans to allow the public opportunity to participate in Deep Space missions.
Gump said: "The public will participate in Firefly and Dragonfly missions via live feeds from Mission Control, online courses in asteroid mining sponsored by corporate marketers and other innovative ways to open the doors wide. The Google Lunar X Prize, Unilever and Red Bull each are spending tens of millions of dollars on space sponsorships, so the opportunity to sponsor a Firefly expedition into deep space will be enticing."
Artist s conception of a space mine
Artist's conception of a space mine
Deep Space Industries
Company officials said mined metals will be used to build communications satellites stationed in space. The company also plans to build space-based solar power stations.
EarthSKy.org reports Deep Space has a patent-pending technology called the MicroGravity Foundry, which will be used for making metal parts from mined metals.The company said in a statement: "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.[It]is the first 3D printer that creates high-density high-strength metal components even in zero gravity."
Steven Covey, Deep Space co-founder and inventor of the MicroGravity Foundry, said: "The MicroGravity Foundry is the first 3D printer that creates high-density, high-strength metal components even in zero gravity. 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."
Artist s conception of a fuel processor spacecraft
Artist's conception of a fuel processor spacecraft
Deep Space Industries
The company also plans to extract ice water from asteroids. The water would be split into hydrogen and oxygen for use in rocket fuel. The company hopes to establish space "gas stations" where satellites and spacecraft on deep-space voyage may stop to fill up.
Tumlinson said: "We will only be visitors in space until we learn how to live off the land there. This is the Deep Space mission — to find, harvest and process the resources of space to help save our civilization and support the expansion of humanity beyond the Earth — and doing so in a step-by-step manner that leverages off our space legacy to create an amazing and hopeful future for humanity."
Planetary Resources also plans to mine metals and water on asteroids as the first step to opening up the solar system for exploration.The company was founded by Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson, pioneers of private-spaceflight. The company is backed by multi-billionaire Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.
Deep Space asteroid harvester
Deep Space asteroid harvester
Deep Space Industries
Yahoo! News reports that Deep Space officials said they are not afraid of competition from Planet Resources. They are optimistic that both companies can prosper in space. Chairman Rick Tumlinson, said: "We love Planetary Resources. Space is big. There's room for everybody."
According to Yahoo! News, astronomers have identified more than 9,000 near-Earth asteroids., and an additional 1,000 new near-Earth asteroids are identified every year.
Gump said: "There are two or three million near-Earth asteroids. There's room for everyone to prosper, I think."
He added: "We're at an early stage. It'll probably be 2019 or 2020 before we'll have commercial quantities of propellant for sale."
More about deep space industries, Asteroids, 2025
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