Prospector X, the first space mining device owned by a private company, is ready to start its activity in just three years.
Deep Space Industries prepared a small lander that will create the first-ever resource supply chain outside our planet. The company wants to build cities in space in the next thirty years, and the raw materials obtained from asteroids are essential to achieving their goal.
Prospector X is a small spacecraft that will be placed in the low Earth orbit, where it will test the technologies which would later be used in asteroid prospecting missions.
The robot will be equipped with optical navigation systems and water-powered propulsion that are intended to be the technological details of future space mining.
The launch is scheduled for 2017. Shortly after, Deep Space Industry plans to send the first asteroid mining robot, Prospector 1, out into space in search of valuable materials. The spacecraft will have only 50 kilograms and will be propelled by a system using water towards an asteroid which had not yet been chosen.
The plan is to get the device register the shape of the asteroid up from afar. Then, when the device gets closer, the commanding team back on Earth will decide upon the best place where resources could be found on the surface of the space object.
The last part of the mission will be the landing, which will include studies of the surface of the asteroid in search of the properties of the rock. Only after this preparation, the engineers will understand how and what needs to be used in order to mine the asteroid and search for its riches.
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty states that no company, government or individual can own a celestial body, landing on an asteroid would allow Deep Space Industries to use the resources. Even if space business is not yet regulated, companies should not interfere with each other’s activities, as a principle.
However, there will still be some more years between Prospector 1’s landing and the actual harvest of the asteroid. At this moment, it’s safe to presume that there will be no competition for the same space rock, as there are plenty of asteroids out there in space.
If things should change, and the industry will find new ways to assess the quality of resources from a celestial object, then companies will need a bit of help with not stepping on each other’s toes.
At this moment, Deep Space Industries is covered by the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act which allows companies to own any resource that they can mine from space.
The company did not choose the asteroid yet. The ideal place would be one rich in water, carbon dioxide, and methane, which could be used to make fuel.
The purpose of the expedition is to create a supply chain which could later be used by other companies that will then start building in space.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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