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Space mining a step closer: private firm announces mission to asteroid

DSI screenshot

Private space mining firm Deep Space Industries has announced the first commercial mission to an asteroid.

The Prospector-1 mission is expected to launch before the end of the decade, with the aim of landing on a near-Earth asteroid, the company wrote in a press statement.

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“DSI is developing Prospector-1 both for its own asteroid mining ambitions, as well as to bring an extremely low-cost, yet high-performance exploration capability to the market. We hope to enable both existing and new public and private organisations to explore the inner solar system using this affordable platform,” said DSI’s chief engineer Grant Bonin.

Weighing just 50-kilograms when fully fuelled, the Prospector-1 craft uses “superheated” water vapour for propellant. “Water will be the first asteroid mining product, so the ability to use water as propellant will provide future DSI spacecraft with the ability to refuel in space,” the company explained.

Prospector-1 is the first commercial mission to an asteroid

A target asteroid hasn’t been chosen just yet, but Prospector-1 will use its sensors to map the asteroid first (both at the surface and below the surface) before landing.

“Prospector-1 is not only the first commercial interplanetary mission, it is also an important milestone in our quest to open the frontier,” said DSI co-founder Rick Tumlinson. “By learning to ‘live off the land’ in space, Deep Space Industries is ushering in a new era of unlimited economic expansion.”

It’s not the only mission being undertaken by DSI, as it’s teamed up with the government of Luxembourg to launch a precursor mission, dubbed Prospector-X, next year.

“When planning for any complex deep space mission, it is crucial to perform risk-reduction technology demonstrations in the familiar environment of low-Earth orbit. Prospector-X, an experimental small nano-spacecraft, will be used to test several key enabling technologies in advance of the first Deep Space Industries asteroid rendezvous mission,” the company wrote on its website.

DSI is joined by Planetary Resources in the commercial race to mine asteroids. Planetary Resources is backed by Google bigwigs Larry Page and Eric Schmidt and director James Cameron.

Featured image: Screenshot of Deep Space Industries video

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