We’ve been extraordinarily busy here at Planetary Resources, and it’s been a while since we’ve posted a tech update, so here’s what’s been going on.
In the accompanying video, you can see one of our full scale Arkyd-100 mechanical prototypes. The Arkyd-100 is our space telescope and technology demonstrator for our Arkyd Series prospecting missions.
One of the earliest decisions we made was to design and build as much as possible in-house, right here at PRI. This is much the same way that Elon Musk and SpaceX have vertically integrated to drive innovation, control reliability, and keep costs down. This mindset and capability will allow us to mass produce our spacecraft at extremely low cost.
The first thing I’d like you to notice is that our Arkyd-100 is daringly small, and this cuts the cost of deep space missions below anything we’ve become accustomed to. Our engineering team is packing tremendous capability into this small package, and this will give us more launch opportunities to get our spacecraft where they need to go in the Solar System.
We’ve put an incredible amount into 11 kg, from our deployable solar arrays, to the integrated avionics bay, and our instrument and sensor package at the back of the comparatively large optical assembly, that dominates the volume of the spacecraft – and of course you can’t see the innovations we’re developing in the flight software, but our software team will assure that they exist!
Without divulging our intellectual property, I can tell you that we’re working to make the Arkyd-100 the most advanced spacecraft per kilogram that exists today. We’re drawing on our experience from traditional and private space exploration and combining it with exponential technology developments of the past few years and those to come in the next few years. With all of this we’re raising the bar on spacecraft design above anything that’s been done before.
In our Class 10,000 clean room, we’re focused on developing our spacecraft optics which are unique in their multifunctionality. Not only does the Arkyd-100 optic capture imagery under a wide range of wavelengths and intensity levels, but we also use it for laser communications. This innovation expands our options beyond the large dishes of the deep space network that have been used to date, as those aren’t easily scalable for our commercial use. Our small size, weight and power won’t accommodate typical deep space communications technology – which is often larger than our entire spacecraft. We’re not the only ones interested in optical communications – we’re under contract to help develop it for NASA as well.
In our manufacturing facility, we are building additional configuration prototypes. With each new prototype build, we’re learning a lot about how to strip cost out of the assembly, integration and test process, and that will be incredibly valuable when we start mass production of the units destined for space.
We can use computer-controlled machining to create single piece parts that serve as major structural elements of the Arkyd-100 series, driving simplicity and tight integration into our vehicle. Our goal is evolve a process that allows just a few of our staff to deliver a finished spacecraft in a very short amount of time. Fewer people and less time, means lower cost.
That’s it for today. We’ll continue to keep you updated as things progress – there’s a lot going on. In the meantime, we continue to be featured in an incredible amount of media coverage – check out the best coverage here.
Thank you again for all of your support, it’s good to know you’re as excited as we are about this critical series of missions and what they will mean for creating abundance in space and right here on Earth.
We’ve got a number of exciting upcoming events – so, stayed tuned. One will be the subject of an upcoming blog post.
Till then, let us know (below) what excites you most about our progress towards creating the Arkyd-100 series, our first commercial spacecraft capable of venturing into deep space.
-Chris, President and Chief Asteroid Miner