Asteroid miners to strap 'scopes to new Virgin Galactic rocket
Rock diggers want to cash in on SPAAAACE
Washington-based Planetary Resources is pursuing the dream of mining near-Earth asteroids, signing a deal with the UK's Virgin Galactic for payload services.
Planetary Resoures wants to use Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne booster to blast a series of robot craft into space to pave the way for asteroid mining.
The firm's Arkyd-100 telescopes will be among the launches, searching out near-Earth asteroids that have lots of valuable stuff in them and figuring out if they're within range. LauncherOne is a good fit for getting the scopes into space because of its low cost, the company said.
"The more spacecraft that the company launches, the faster it will create a future where access to asteroid resources results in a vast network of propellant depots throughout space and a future where once precious and rare materials are abundant for all," Eric Anderson, co-founder of Planetary Resources, opined.
According to the space-mining-wannabe, there are over 1,500 asteroids close enough to home that they can be reached with the same ease as getting to the Moon. Which is not that easy really but at least it's been done.
Anderson hopes LauncherOne will fire up several constellations of Arkyd-100 Series spacecraft in the next few years.
Virgin Galactic announced the LauncherOne rocket at the Farnborough Air Show earlier this week, and said it expects the vehicle to start commercial flights by 2016. The firm said it wanted to "offer frequent and dedicated launches at the world's lowest prices".
"LauncherOne is bringing the price of satellite launch into the realm of affordability for innovators everywhere, from start-ups and schools to established companies and national space agencies," Sir Richard Branson said at the event. "It will be a critical new tool for the global research community, enabling us all to learn about our home planet more quickly and affordably."
The rocket will be a two-stage vehicle that can carry up to 225kg and will be able to reach low-Earth orbit for bargain prices under $10m, Virgin Galactic claims. LauncherOne will start out strapped to the firm's WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, just like the SpaceShipTwo tourist flights. ®
Re: Valuable stuff?
"...or maybe figure out a way to just drop stuff down from orbit..."
Easy. If you're in the business of killing enough of its relative velocity that getting it into Earth orbit is feasible, you might as well just give it a velocity of bugger all relative to the surface, point it at somewhere unimportant and wait. Then mine the results in the conventional manner once the dust has settled.
 E.g. Swindon. You might even get government funding under "urban regeneration".....
Re: Moon is a harsh mistress
Come, friendly rocks, and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now,
The only grass is skunk, but oh wow!
Swarm over, Death!
Come, rocks and crush to smithereens
Non-air-conditioned, dowdy canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned brains.
With apologies to Sir John Betjeman
Re: Valuable stuff?
"10 Million for 225 Kg is not cheap by any means, it's a rip-off!
Yeah, even Easy Jet don't charge THAT much!
$45/gram for luggage sounds about right for Easy jet