Planetary Resources, the company that proposes to mine asteroids for valuable materials such as platinum and water, has recently issued a technical update about a crucial portion of its operation, the Arkyd-100 space telescope.
Advances in technology for space based observation
According to Planetary Resources, the Arkyd-100 will be small, massing about 11 kilograms, and packs in a great deal of technology in a small volume. It will be able to make observations across a wide variety of wavelengths and intensities. It packs a great deal of avionics and an instrument and sensor package in a small volume. It will be powered by a small solar array. An optical laser communications system will be used to transmit data from the telescope back to Earth.
Arkyd-100 to be mass produced
Since the Planetary Resources plan, according to the update, is to launch a number of Arkyd-100 space telescopes, they will be mass-produced, using computer controlled machinery. The goal is to use a small number of people who rapidly manufacture units of the Arkyd-100 at a small cost.
Planetary Resources already suggests that the technology it is developing is already creating spin-offs. In this case it is the reverse of the usual process in which NASA creates some technology for its operations which then gets picked up by the private sector. The optical laser communication system is being developed for NASA use by Planetary Resources, a private company.
Other uses for the Arkyd-100
Planetary Resources intends to use the Arkyd-100 to locate and categorize asteroids. However, according to a post on the Citizens in Space blog, MIT intends to use the Arkyd-100 to find exoplanets, other worlds in other star systems. NASA is currently using the Kepler Space Telescope, among other observatories, for this purpose.
The role of the Arkyd-100 in Planetary Resources business plan
Planetary Resources remains a business that intends to make a profit. In its case the business is to find, categorize, examine, capture, and finally mine asteroids for their resources. The Arkyd-100 represents the first step in a long and potentially risky process. A fleet of these space telescopes in planned to be launched to scan the heavens to locate likely targets for Planetary Resources mining operations,according to the company's mission statement. Then robotic explorers will be dispatched to examine likely candidates from a closer perspective. Finally, the company intends to capture asteroids that have been found suitable for mining, bring them to the Earth/Moon system, and then exploit them for useful materials for both space-based and Earthbound markets.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.
- Science, Social Science, & Humanities
- Space & Astronomy