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 a spec 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.

Bells_CM2 Carb Chon

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 that has ever been mined on Earth to date.

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

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

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

Prospecting and Exploration

Many of the most promising asteroid targets have far more open questions than answers.


So just as every great mine is born from a greenfield surveyor taking soil samples, so will Planetary Resources unlock the economic potential of asteroids by surveying them up close.  By building a database of the greatest value targets in the Solar System and what’s required to develop them, we pave the way for partners to take the next step with us.

Market for H20 in Space

H20 will open up a Trillion dollar market in Space.

The present day space economy spends $ Billions on rocket fuel each year to propel spacecraft into their final orbits and to keep those spacecraft safely in their positions.

Water from asteroids can be broken down into Hydrogen- and Oxygen-based rocket fuels in order to meet this growing demand. Strategically placed re-fueling stations can triple the up-mass of GEO-stationary orbit bound rockets, extend the life of telecommunications satellites, and remove hazardous space debris all for a small fraction of current costs.

And water is more than the “oil of space”. In orbit and beyond, water plays a critical role hydrating astronauts, providing oxygen for life support, and serving as a shield against harmful radiation in space.

To date, all water and water-derived resources necessary for spaceflight have been brought from the surface of the Earth at exorbitant expense. Of all constraints to the expansion of humanity off Earth, our dependence on Earth-sourced water is the most limiting. Sustained growth into the Solar System requires use of the local resources. Fortunately, asteroids are the most abundant, accessible source of water in space.

BLOG: The Market for Water in Space #FUELSPACE

Market for Metals in Space

Metals are abundant in space

Water in space will also fuel the harvesting of precious metals from metallic asteroids. Platinum group metals are some of the most rare and useful elements on Earth. They exist in such high concentrations on asteroids that a single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid can contain more platinum group metals than have ever been mined in human history. And despite their high costs, platinum group metals are so useful that 1 of 4 industrial goods on Earth require them in production.

In addition to precious metals, Asteroids contain more common metallic elements such as iron, nickel, and cobalt, sometimes in incredible quantities and often in their pure, non-oxidized metal form. These base metals, silicates and other asteroid resources can support entirely new space ventures, from deep space habitats to space-based solar power arrays.