Asteroid Mining Company Builds 24-Pound Telescope For Future Space Missions
January 22, 2013

Asteroid Mining Company Builds 24-Pound Telescope For Future Space Missions

[Watch Video: Planetary Resources Tech Update]

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

An asteroid mining company this week has unveiled a space telescope it plans to implement in upcoming deep space missions. The telescope, a prototype of its Arkyd-100, is tentatively planned for a 2014 launch with the hopes of aiding in the harvest of precious metals and water from near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) by 2020.

Planetary Resources is the company behind this lucrative endeavor. The company and its mission has received full support from investors like “Avatar” director James Cameron and Google front men Larry Page and Eric Schmidt. The company first announced its mission plans last year.

Chris Lewicki, president of PR, showed off the new prototype in a video published Sunday, describing the basics of the small telescope. He did not delve too deeply into the details of the instrument´s inner workings, yet he did mention that his company is intent on making Arkyd-100 "the most advanced spacecraft per kilogram that exists today."

Lewicki also revealed some of the external features of the space telescope. He said--as can be seen in the video--that the Arkyd-100 includes deployable solar arrays, integrated avionics bay, sensor package and optical assembly. The small package, weighing a mere 24 pounds, gives the telescope advantages over the bulkier, heavier telescopes employed currently in space. Yet, the Arkyd-100 is incompatible with traditional space communications technology.

Arkyd-100´s optical assembly is touted as being able to capture images across a wide range of wavelengths, while enabling laser communications. Lewicki mentioned that PR is working with NASA, developing some of this technology for the space agency.

"We´re raising the bar on spacecraft design above anything that´s been done before," Lewicki told Amar Toor with The Verge.

At PR´s manufacturing plant, the company´s engineers are building additional prototypes, which is helping them learn more about how to remove large costs out of the assembly, integration and testing process. Cost savings in this stage will help “when we start mass production of the units destined for space,” Lewicki said in a statement.

“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,” he explained.

The Arkyd-100 and deep space project was inspired by Elon Musk´s SpaceX venture. While there has been no set timeline for a launch, Lewicki said to stay tuned for future updates.