Planetary Resources, Inc., formerly known as Arkyd Astronautics, is an American company that was formed in November 2010,[1] and reorganized and renamed in 2012. Their stated goal is to "expand Earth's natural resource base"[2] by developing and deploying the technologies for asteroid mining.

Although the long-term goal of the company is to mine asteroids, its initial plans call for developing a market for small (30–50 kg) cost-reduced space telescopes for both Earth observation and astronomy. These spacecraft would employ a laser-optical system for ground communications,[citation needed] reducing payload bulk and mass compared to conventional RF antennas.[not verified in body] The deployment of such orbital telescopes is envisioned as the first step forward in the company's asteroid mining ambitions. The same telescope satellite capabilities that Planetary Resources hopes to sell to customers can be used to survey and intensively examine near-Earth asteroids.

A test satellite named Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) was launched and successfully transported to Earth orbit on 17 April 2015 and was deployed from the International Space Station via the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer on July 16, 2015.[5][6] The "Reflight" descriptor was used because Planetary's first satellite, Arkyd 3, was destroyed on October 28, 2014 after an Antares resupply rocket exploded seconds after launch.[7]


Arkyd Astronautics was founded in November 2010, with Peter Diamandis as co-chairman and director, and president and chief engineer Chris Lewicki; it recruited some employees through open job postings.[1] According to co-founder Eric Andersen, the name "Arkyd Astronautics" was deliberately ambiguous, to help keep the company's asteroid-mining agenda secret.[8] Planetary Resources' website was registered on 22 February 2012, by Anderson Astronautics.[9]

The company gained media attention in April 2012 with the announcement of a press conference, scheduled for April 24, 2012.[10] The initial press release provided limited information; as of April 20, 2012, only a list of major investors and advisors was known.[11] Included in the list were a number of people notable for their entrepreneurship and interest in space, exploration, and research. Some also had previous involvement in space research. It was speculated that Planetary Resources was "looking for ways to extract raw materials from non-Earth sources," as the means by which it would (as stated in the press release) "add trillions of dollars to the global GDP."[11] From the outset, the dominant assumption was that the company intended to develop asteroid mining operations,[2][11][12][13] with one anonymous source reportedly verifying that claim in advance of the April 24 event.[14]

The "unveiling" press conference was held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington on April 24, 2012. Tickets for this event were offered for sale to the general public at a basic price of USD $25.00 and were sold out.[citation needed] The main announcements and discussion were handled by an onstage panel of five key people[who?] involved with the project. The press conference was also webcast by SpaceVidcast. Live chat functionality was included with the webcast, although it included only limited interaction with major participants at the live event.[citation needed]

Some sources in the company state that Planetary Resources is Arkyd Astronautics under a new name, but Eric Anderson (formerly of Space Adventures), a co-founder, has said that Arkyd became a wholly owned subsidiary of Planetary Resources.[8]

In July 2012, Planetary Resources announced an agreement with Virgin Galactic to enable multiple launch opportunities for its series of spacecraft on LauncherOne starting with the Arkyd-100 series of space telescopes.[15][16][17]

By January 2013, Planetary Resources had completed a ground test prototype of the Arkyd-100 and released a limited set of details publicly.[18]

In April 2013, Planetary Resources announced that Bechtel Corporation has joined Planetary Resources group of investors and will be a collaborative partner in helping Planetary Resources achieve its long-term mission of mining asteroids.[19]

In May 2013, Planetary Resources announced the launch of Kickstarter funding for the ARKYD-100. Their goal was surpassed on 19 June 2013.[20] By the end of the funding period for the Arkyd-100 on 30 June 2013, 1.5 mil. was received from backers on kickstarter. This was partly credited to the success of the photography campaign that will allow supporters to take space selfies by uploading personal images to be displayed in space. The on-screen photos will be retaken by ARKYD camera with the earth as the backdrop.[21]

In April 2013, the company announced that in early 2014 they planned on launching a CubeSat called "Arkyd-3" (A3), as a testbed manifestation for the Arkyd-100 spacecraft. The purpose of the flight is to test technologies for the first Arkyd-100 spacecraft.[22] In the event, the first A3 was launched in fall 2014 but was destroyed in a launch accident; a second A3 spacecraft—designated A3R—was launched in April 2015 and deployed into orbit in July 2015.[23]

In June 2013, Planetary Resources took an undisclosed investment from 3D Systems and will make use of its 3D printing technology to manufacture components of the Arkyd spacecraft that Planetary Resources intends to use for finding near-Earth asteroids.[20][24]
Business approach

Planetary Resources is pursuing approaches to dramatically decrease cost for the manufacture of interplanetary spacecraft. The star trackers and momentum wheels to be used on the Arkyd-300 spacecraft have been reduced in cost by two orders of magnitude by following a strategy of vertical integration and in-house manufacturing. Novel approaches to construct the spacecraft bus of the spacecraft include 3D-printing the entire mechanical spaceframe with an integral propellant tank making up the substantial portion of the mechanical structure.[3]

Planetary Resources aims to develop a robotic asteroid mining industry.[4][25] To achieve this, the company is operating on the basis of a long-term strategic plan.
Unveiling the Planetary Resources 3D-Printed Satellite in February 2014 (Arkyd-300[3] satellite bus configuration). The torus holds the propellant and provides the structure for the satellite. From left: Peter Diamandis, Chris Lewicki, and Steve Jurvetson.

The first stage will be a survey and analysis, using purpose-built satellites in Earth orbit, to locate the best potential targets among near-Earth asteroids. Several small space telescopes, with various sensing capabilities, are to be launched for this purpose.[4] The company website asserts that their space telescopes will be made available for hire, for private uses. The company also intends to produce satellites for sale. Their first model of space telescope, the Arkyd-100, has been introduced.[26]

Later stages of the strategic plan envision sending survey probes to selected asteroids in order to map, including deep-scanning, and to conduct sample-and-analysis and/or sample-and-return missions. The company has stated that it could take a decade to finish identifying the best candidates for commercial mining.[10]

Ultimately, their intent is to establish fully automated/robotic asteroid-based mining and processing operations, and the capability to transport the resulting products wherever desired. In addition to the extraction of industrial and precious metals for space-based and terrestrial use, the project envisions producing water for an orbital propellant depot.[27][28][29] Developing the necessary technologies to maturity, and deploying them in proof-of-concept operations, is the company's intermediate-to-long-term objective.

Another goal is to develop the technology to affect and control the orbits of small asteroids. This could also be used for dealing with any potentially hazardous objects in near-Earth space, which presented a serious risk of impact with the planet.[citation needed]

Planetary Resources is seeking partnerships and opportunities to market their capabilities for other, related purposes; such as education and research.[citation needed]
Spacecraft models

An overview of the first three models of the Arkyd-series satellites were initially released in September 2012:[30][31]

Arkyd Series 100 (aka "Leo Space Telescope"[32] ) — Earth-observer and asteroid-locator satellite. Able to provide "on-demand" Earth imaging to a wider consumer base due to an "unprecedented low price", this will scout for potentially viable asteroids from low Earth orbit (LEO, hence the name). The Arkyd-100 will have a mass of 11 to 15 kilograms (24–33 lb).[18][22] The optics system of the spacecraft will have three uses: faint object observation and detection (as faint as magnitude 19), near-field bright-object analysis, and optical communications[33]

Arkyd Series 200 (aka "Interceptor"[32]) — asteroid interceptor with a suite of instruments able to collect scientific data on physical characteristics of the target asteroid. Unlike its Earthbound predecessor Leo, Interceptor will be "designed to intercept asteroids that come within 10 to 30 Lunar-radii of Earth".[30] Planetary Resources envisions multiple Interceptor telescopes approaching and gathering data on an asteroid.

Arkyd Series 300 (aka "Rendezvous Prospector"[32]) — with a larger common propulsion system than the Arkyd-200, is designed to be able to accomplish deep-space exploration "up to half-way across the inner solar system."[30] Like the Interceptor missions, multiple Rendezvous Prospectors can distribute risk and increase data-point collection. This class of instruments will gather more detailed information on the asteroid such as the size, shape, rotation, and density; as well this it will analyse elements such as surface and sub-surface composition that will be necessary for any mining expedition.

Planetary Resources is making preliminary plans for spacecraft models beyond the Arkyd-300, which would go beyond collecting asteroidal data and begin to capture asteroidal samples or perform mineralogic extraction experiments, but they did not make those plans public as of August 2012.[30]

The satellite series is named Arkyd as an homage to the Star Wars probe droid, made by fictional Arakyd Industries, deployed to locate galactic resources.[3][33]
Arkyd-3 Flight test system

Planetary Resources packaged a number of the non-optical satellite technologies of the Arkyd-100 —essentially the entire base of the Arkyd-100 satellite model revealed in January 2013,[18] but without the space telescope— into a cost-effective format for early in-space flight testing on a nanosatellite named the Arkyd 3, or A3. The Arkyd-3 testbed satellite was packaged in a 3U CubeSat form-factor of 10×10×30 centimetres (0.33×0.33×0.98 ft). The first attempt to validate and mature the technology[34][35][36][37] met a setback on 28 October 2014, when the first Arkyd-3 test satellite was destroyed during launch in the explosion of the Antares rocket carrying it to the International Space Station (ISS).[38]

A second attempt to launch an Arkyd-3 spacecraft—designated A3R, or Arkyd-3 Reflight— took place on April 14, 2015 with a flight of SpaceX CRS-6 to the ISS from where it was planned to be deployed later.[39] In the event, after spending several months attached to the ISS, A3R was deployed on orbit on 16 July 2015 to begin flight testing. The test flight is expected to have an approximately 90 day duration.[23][40] As of January 2016, the company has been completely silent on the progress of any on-orbit testing post deployment from the ISS.[41]

The satellite subsystems being tested on A3R include the avionics, attitude determination and control system (both sensors and actuators), and integrated propulsion system that will enable proximity operations for the Arkyd line of prospectors in the future.[33][42]

A3R reentered the atmosphere on 23 December 2015.[41]
Arkyd-6 Flight test system

A second flight test unit for Planetary Resources—twice the size of A3R with a 6U form factor—is the Arkyd-6 (A6). It is slated to test attitude control, power, and communication systems as well as a photo-display-and-retransmission system. As of July 2015, A6 was planned to launch in late 2015 along with a number of other cubesats.[23][43] This date slipped to an April 2016 launch.[44]

Earth-observation constellation

Planetary Resources announced in 2015 that they had plans to build a constellation of Earth observation satellites that would enable hyperspectral imaging of every part of Earth on a daily basis. The constellation—named Ceres—would consist of 100 satellites.[45][46]
See also
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Planetary Resources, Inc..

Asteroid mining
Deep Space Industries
In-situ resource utilization
Mining the Sky: Untold Riches from the Asteroids, Comets, and Planets
Propellant depot
Shackleton Energy Company
Space-based industry
SpaceDev & their Near Earth Asteroid Prospector
Space manufacturing
Space mining
Space trade
Space technology
Inspiration Mars


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Unannotated references

"Seattle's Museum of Flight event announcement". The Museum of Flight. 18 April 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
Ross Andersen (May 14, 2012). "Robots, Platinum, and Tiny Space Telescopes: The Pitch for Mining Asteroids". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2012-04-16. - an interview with advisor Sara Seager.

External links

Planetary official website
Asteroid Mining 1 session, National Space Society ISDC 2013 conference - 15 June 2013.
Choosing near-Earth asteroid targets an independent site devoted to coverage of Planetary Resource's space activities
Video: Planetary Resources—Tech Update, January 22, 2013
Video: Planetary Resources - Press conference - April 25, 2012
Chris Lewicki interviewed on the TV show Triangulation on the network
SEDS Space Talks featuring Chris Voorhees, VP of Spacecraft Development, Planetary Resources. 58 minutes, April 3, 2014. Includes updated spacecraft graphics and mission dates ("2014—A3; 2015—A100; 2016 and beyond: A200/A300") at 29:55.

Space Encyclopedia

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