As yesterday’s launch failure and the history of spaceflight remind us, space exploration is not without risk. Of course our team was disappointed as we watched the Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket fail shortly after liftoff. All of us appreciate the physical grit and emotional toll that went into the fabrication not only of the vehicle itself, but also from the many organizations who had payloads onboard.
Our first Arkyd, a technology and system test platform (the Arkyd 3, or “A3”) was integrated on that rocket, which was destined for the International Space Station (ISS). The A3 was due to hibernate on the ISS for a few months until the crew deployed it into low-Earth orbit (LEO) out of the Japanese “Kibo” airlock. Its mission was to space-test the avionics and controls systems, show us the strong points, failure points, and then burn-up in the atmosphere as its orbit slowly degraded back to Earth after about 90 days.
A scenario like this is part of any early-stage company, and certainly for companies like ours that are striving towards such an audacious mission. It would be very surprising if failures or setbacks like this did not occur, which is why we plan for them.
While we are saddened about the unfortunate consequences of this launch failure, our own development schedule, budget and plan are practically unaffected. In fact, we are already hard at work developing our next test vehicle, the Arkyd 6, which is planned for launch in Q3 2015. It will build on the learnings from our development of the A3 and iterate to our next level of design. Multiple spacecraft and safety in numbers is part of our strategy, and we will continue with it for just these occasions.
The fabric of our company is composed of a team who is tackling a game changing mission with a cost-efficient approach, and mentality of anticipating failures that lead to progressive successes. The road to asteroid mining is long, and we don’t expect perfection immediately, which is why we are innovating by using space as our testbed.
We appreciate the support and well-wishes we’ve had pouring in from around the world, and want to remind everyone that the A3 was just a robot. We can and are building more, and we will live to fly another day. Onward!
Chief Asteroid Miner
Planetary Resources, Inc.