Asteroids will unlock the Solar System’s economy.

The local resources of space will enable economic growth in the same way new resource frontiers have been explored and developed here on Earth.

We think asteroids are the greatest gifts from the Solar System.

Energetically closer than our own moon, and dense with resources that we rely on here on Earth, they are perfect for utilization as the catalyst to move humanity forward on Earth and in Space.

Why Asteroids?
Why Asteroids Now?
Market for H2O
Market for Metals
Targets of Interest

Near-Earth Asteroids are the “Low Hanging Fruit of the Solar System”

Near-Earth asteroids are much closer energetically to Earth, than even our own moon, making them the perfect targets for our asteroid prospecting and minings missions. Read more here about “How we choose our near-Earth asteroid targets” in our in-depth blog post. 


This diagram shows three common orbit types for near-Earth asteroids: Apollo, Amor and Aten.

This diagram shows three common orbit types for near-Earth asteroids: Apollo, Amor and Aten.


Our Near-Earth Asteroid Targets of Interest

Asteroid Composition

The more we learn about asteroids, the more enticing destinations they become!

Asteroids are primordial material left over from the formation of the Solar System. They are scattered throughout it: some pass close to the Sun, and others are found out beyond the orbit of Neptune. A vast majority have been collected by Jupiter’s gravity into a belt between it and Mars – an area known as the Main Belt. As it turns out, astronomers have been discovering thousands of asteroids that do not belong to the Main Belt, but instead pass near Earth’s orbit – more than 11,000 to date, with over a thousand more discovered every year.

Outside of low Earth orbit, many near Earth asteroids are the most accessible destination in the Universe. Many also contain enormous quantities of accessible resources. We have learned a great deal about asteroids over the past few decades from the 50,000 meteorite samples that have been analyzed in laboratories, the modern investments in telescopic study, and from successful government space missions to 433 Eros, 25143 Itokawa, 4 Vesta, and other asteroids. You can learn more about “How we know so much about asteroids” in this blog post.

Types of Asteroids:

There are three general types of asteroids in our Solar System. Planetary Resources is targeting asteroid types that are rich in water (C-type), or rich in precious metals (X-type) as they offer the most value and will positively affect growth of the space economy. Review our list of interesting astroid targets in the Solar System.

C-type asteroids are very dark in color, and may be the most common. They closely follow the elemental composition of the sun, which leads scientists to conclude that C-type asteroids are very primitive objects, formed at the dawn of the solar system. Planetary Resources will mine water from the C-type asteroids.

Photo Credit: Laurence Garvie, Center for Meteorite Studies, ASU

X-type asteroids are composed of primarily metal. They appear to be the remnants of large (> 100 km) asteroids that fully separated into a core and mantle. Some of the these large asteroids were pulverized in massive collisions early in the Solar System’s history leaving only the tough metallic cores they have today. They are known for being extremely dense, unlike any metallic ore bodies we find on Earth today. One of Planetary Resources targets is an X-type asteroid, and may have more platinum than has ever been mined on Earth to date.

Photo credit: Laurence Garvie, Center for Meteorite Studies, ASU

S-type asteroids are a mixture of rock and metal mixed together. These rocky asteroids dominate the inner portion of the Main Belt and are often found as near-Earth objects. Scientists believe they are the source of the chondrite meteorites, which are the most commonly found meteorite. These are composed of material that was heated to melting but never separated from the rock as happened with similar ore bodies on Earth.

Photo credit: Laurence Garvie, Center for Meteorite Studies, ASU

Asteroid Prospecting

Every mine starts with a geologist exploring on horseback.  Our geologists and horses just happen to be robots.

Asteroid mining activities must be preceded by the development of asteroid prospecting capabilities. The ideal prospector craft is capable of rendezvousing with an asteroid, surveying the surface for weeks at a time, and then landing or impacting to conduct in-situ measurements. NASA and the Japanese Space Agency had demonstrated these capabilities, but required multi-hundred-million-dollar budgets and time frames of a decade to do so. Planetary Resources is standing on their shoulders to perform commercial prospecting at costs that are more than an order of magnitude lower.

Asteroid Analysis with Advanced Sensors

Our primary objective during the prospecting phase is to analyze the asteroids composition and characteristics.

We are doing this with our advanced sensors onboard the Arkyd spacecraft that gather data of our asteroid targets.

This gives us valuable data about the composition that allows us to confirm the targets value beyond the data we have collected from Earth based observation.

Arkyd Betas, The Technology Demonstrators

Software programmers release versions and beta-test. Space hardware doesn’t need to be any different. With the small size, and low cost of our spacecraft hardware, Planetary Resources is using space as our test bed. Starting in low-Earth orbit, we are deploying a series of increasingly more capable spacecraft, allowing for research and development, iteration and testing.

Our first spacecraft in the series of technology demonstrators for prospecting and other exciting technologies are the Arkyd 3 and Arkyd 6.

Arkyd 3, On Orbit Since July 2015
Arkyd 3 (A3) deployed into low-Earth orbit in July of 2015 and successfully completed its mission to test our core prospecting capabilities.

Read more about this exciting milestone here.

Arkyd 3R Deploying from the International Space Station in July 2015

Arkyd 6, Launches in 2017
The Arkyd 6, (A6) built at our headquarters in Redmond, WA, is scheduled to launch to test increased capabilities of our Prospecting and Space-based Observation technologies.


Arkyd 6

Arkyd 6

Asteroid Resource Property Rights

Historic steps towards the commercialization of space.

In 2015, President Obama signed a historic piece of legislation into law that recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain and encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids.

The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (H.R. 2262) is a key milestone in our roadmap to access asteroid resources for commercial use in space.

To learn more about this law, and read the full text of H.R 2262, click here for our full press release: “President Obama Signs Bill Recognizing Asteroid Resource Property Rights into Law”.









Harvesting Water from Asteroids

Water is the fuel, shelter, and sustenance of space.

Every frontier expansion and gold rush in history relied on a local source of energy and a transportation backbone.  Space will be no different.  Before mining precious metals, Planetary Resources intends to produce fuel in space from carbonaceous chondrites rich in water that can be broken down into highly efficient LOX/H2 rocket fuel.  Rocket Fuel is an attractive early resource for several reasons:

  1. A large market for fuel in space already exists.
  2. Fuel will open the interplanetary equivalent of exploration era trade routes.
  3. Fuel enables other resource mining operations in the future.
  4. Mining in space is different than mining on Earth, and in some cases may be more simple.

The actual method used for extracting and refining rocket fuels from asteroids will depend on the specific composition of the target asteroid and will require an up-close investigation with Planetary Resources’ Arkyd prospectors.  However, the mining equipment required may be more simple than you imagine.  In some cases, much of the equipment we need to mine on Earth (drills, excavators, concentrators) may not be required.  Even surface contact with the asteroid may not be necessary due to the unique environment of space. One possible concept for extracting water from an asteroid may be as follows:

  1. Enclose: Fully enclose a small asteroid or position a cold plate in the vicinity of a large asteroid.
  2. Heat: Concentrate and direct freely-available thermal energy from the sun onto the asteroid.  At temperature, water will volatilize similar to what occurs naturally with approaching comets.  The gaseous water will freeze on contact with the cold plate in a largely pre-concentrated form.
  3. Release: Once the desired quantities are captured, release or depart from the asteroid to deliver the fuel to the point of need, in Earth orbit, or elsewhere in the Solar System.

Many of the engineering systems required for such a process have already been demonstrated in space.  But before they can be deployed to mine asteroids, we must first learn which asteroids are rich in water and how that water is locked within the asteroid.  Without advances in this knowledge, the engineering and deployment of water-harvesting spacecraft would be excessively risky.

Mining and Delivery

We’ve been mining asteroids on Earth for centuries.  Planetary Resources is going to the source.

Some of Earth’s richest ore deposits such as Canada’s Sudbury Basin can trace their origins to ancient asteroid impacts.  By going to the source, Planetary Resources can harvest platinum group metals in much higher concentrations than even the richest Earth mines on Earth. A single platinum-rich 500 meter wide asteroid contains about 174 times the yearly world output of platinum, and 1.5 times the known world-reserves of platinum group metals (ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum).  This amount is enough to fill a basketball court to four times the height of the rim.  By contrast, all of the platinum group metals mined to date in history would not reach waist-high on that same basketball court.

While platinum group metals are enriched in asteroids to often hundreds of times that of the richest mines on Earth, they still represent just a small fraction of the total mass of an asteroid.  Extraction processes could be chemically or energy intensive, requiring abundant solar energy, fuel, working fluids, and machinery.  An abundant, cheap, local source of fuel and working fluids are a natural building block towards developing space metal mining capabilities and then delivering those resources back to Earth.