The companies want to cash in on the space metals race

Yahoo Finance

While the mission, courtesy of a company called AstroForge, ran into problems, it’s part of a new wave of would-be asteroid miners hoping to cash in on cosmic resources.
And scraping in space, advocates say, could cut down on the damaging impacts that mining has on this planet.
Still, the pull of space rocks remains powerful and the new crop of companies hopeful.
The economic picture has improved with the cost of rocket launches decreasing, as has the regulatory environment, with countries creating laws specifically allowing space mining.
Another company with similar aims, simply called Asteroid Mining Corporation Ltd., doesn’t want to rely much on outside investment in the long term.
In 2021, the company partnered with Tohoku University Space Robotics Laboratory, based in Japan, to work on space robots.
Together, they have built a six-legged robot called the Space Capable Asteroid Robotic Explorer, or SCAR-E.
Such grounded work may give the company a revenue stream before, and during, their time in space.

POSITIVE

A satellite the size of a microwave was launched into space in April 2023. Its objective is to prepare for asteroidal mining. The mission, which was carried out by the company AstroForge, encountered difficulties, but it is a part of a new wave of prospective asteroid miners looking to profit from cosmic resources.

There are numerous potential uses for material extracted from asteroids. For example, metals like cobalt and platinum are utilized in electric vehicle batteries and electronics, respectively. While these materials are abundant on Earth, they tend to be concentrated more on asteroids than on mountain slopes, which facilitates their removal by scraping. Advocates claim that scraping in space could also lessen the negative effects that mining has on the earth. Additionally, proponents of space resources wish to investigate the possibilities of other materials. Could space ice be utilized as rocket and spacecraft propellant? Could space dirt be utilized for radiation shielding and astronaut housing structures?

Prior businesses that achieved comparable objectives at breakneck speed approximately five years ago were acquired by other companies. But since that initial group of students exited the stage, “interest in the field has exploded,” according to Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Colorado School of Mines’ Center for Space Resources.

With nations aiming to establish outposts there and requiring supplies, the Moon has received a lot of attention. For example, within the next ten years, NASA hopes to construct astronaut base camps. China, on the other hand, intends to establish a global lunar research facility.

The new wave of businesses is optimistic, but the allure of space rocks is still strong. Along with the regulatory environment improving as countries create laws specifically permitting space mining, the economic picture has improved as the cost of rocket launches has decreased. However, only time will tell if the prospectors of this decade will succeed where others have failed or will their business plans sink them.

To get started, optimism is a crucial component for any asteroid-mining company. The aspiration was to establish an alternative industry apart from this one. As stated by Matt Gialich, co-founder and CEO of AstroForge, “Not many people are made to work like that.”. There hasn’t been any mining activity from the company since its April 2023 demo mission.

But what he and associates really want to extract are platinum-group metals, some of which are utilized in gas-emission-reducing devices like catalytic converters. On the other hand, materials used in electronics include platinum and iridium. Green technology presents opportunities as well as fresh pressure to produce better-storing platinum-based batteries that could find their way into energy storage systems and electric cars.

AstroForge’s first mission was loaded with simulated asteroid material and a refinery system intended to extract platinum from the simulant, to demonstrate that metal-processing could occur in space, in order to further the company’s objectives.

The plan was not followed precisely. Among the scores of other recently launched satellites, it was challenging to locate and get in contact with the tiny craft once it was in orbit. At first, the solar panels that power the spacecraft wouldn’t deploy. At first, there was a wobble on the satellite which hindered communication. They’ve failed to complete the simulated extraction.

Soon, the business will set out on a second mission, this time with a different objective: it will slingshot to an asteroid and take a picture of it. This surveying project could aid in the company’s understanding of what valuable materials are present on a specific asteroid.

Another business, TransAstra, sells a telescope and software for spotting asteroids and other objects moving across the sky; Origin Space, a Chinese company, is testing mining-related technology on an asteroid-observing satellite that is orbiting Earth. In the meantime, the Colorado-based business Karman+ intends to test excavation machinery by traveling directly to an asteroid in 2026.

Up to this point, TransAstra, Karman+, and AstroForge have raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital to accomplish the ultimate goal of extracting metals from space rocks.

Another business, simply known as Asteroid Mining Corporation Ltd., has comparable goals. prefers not to depend too heavily on outside funding in the long run. Indeed, such reliance contributed to the demise of previous businesses. Rather than concentrating his company’s initial efforts on space applications that yield immediate revenue, CEO Mitch Hunter-Scullion is allowing his company to grow and will be able to finance work in the wider cosmos in the future. To collaborate on space robot research, the company in 2021 teamed up with the Japanese Tohoku University Space Robotics Laboratory.

The Space Capable Asteroid Robotic Explorer, or SCAR-E, is a six-legged robot that they have jointly constructed. It is able to move across a rough surface, collect samples and data, and operate in microgravity. The firm intends to carry out a demonstration mission examining lunar soil in 2026.

SCAR-E will remain on Earth to examine ship hulls for the time being, though. In contrast to the $0 asteroid mining market, which exists today because no one has mined an asteroid, this market is estimated to be worth nearly $13 billion globally by one market research platform.

Before and during their time in space, the company might be able to generate income from such grounded work. As investors grow weary, money runs out, and you have to take action, Hunter-Scullion said, a realization that “I think every asteroid-mining company has.”.

He went on, “I think you’re never going to be able to mine an asteroid unless you’ve built something which makes sense on Earth.”. “.

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