AstroForge, a US-based startup with plans to mine asteroids, is fine-tuning details for the launch of a spacecraft in the first quarter of next year, which would make it the first private company to visit an M-type asteroid and operate in deep space.
AstroForge’s mission will continue further until reaching a M-type asteroid, which contains higher concentrations of metal than regular asteroids. If successful, it would mark a significant milestone on the startup’s mission to commercially mine asteroids for critical resources.
The California-based firm successfully test fired in September the rockets that will allow Brokkr-2 reach the target celestial body, located 35.4 million km (22 million miles) from Earth. This was a crucial step before the spacecraft is integrated with the SpaceX rocket next year.
The ride-share trip, chartered by Intuitive Machines, would be the final step of Brokkr-2’s flyby to simulate a projected round-trip mission. After that, the company will install the last needed pieces to the vehicle and the rest of the spacecraft will be built around the system, it said.
AstroForge estimates that it would take about nine months to reach the M-type asteroid, with the overall mission lasting about two years.
“With a finite supply of precious metals on Earth, we have no other choice than to look to deep space to source cost-effective and sustainable materials,” chief executive officer Matthew Gialich told MINING.COM in April.
A new study on the subject, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal, says the metals needed for batteries and renewable energy infrastructure could soon go up in price, “potentially delaying the clean energy transition.”
According to the authors, the lack of supply to meet demand will force mining companies to dig in places where such metals aren’t as readily available, which comes with serious economic and environmental costs.
Nearly 9,000 asteroids larger than 36 meters (150 feet) in diameter orbit near Earth. Many of them contain are packed with metals needed on Earth, such as cobalt, nickel and platinum-group metals.
AstroForge is not the first startup to try asteroid mining, but its timing may be better. Two previous companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries emerged about a decade ago, but neither company arrived on any asteroids and were eventually acquired and rerouted to other endeavours.
THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST POSTED ON MINING.COM