AstroForge, an asteroid mining company, will go to space twice this year in an attempt to uncover the potentially endless value of precious minerals in deep space.
The first mission will be launched on SpaceX’s Transporter-7 rideshare rocket in April. The 6U CubeSat, donated by space technology startup OrbAstro, will be pre-loaded with “asteroid-like material” to demonstrate AstroForge’s refining and extraction capabilities in zero gravity.
The company’s second mission will take it into deep space to collect data on the surface of an asteroid that it aims to mine later this decade.
“We have to find some way to get the regolith off the asteroid and process it in our refinery, and we believe we’ve solved that for our target asteroid,” said CEO Matt Gialich.
The company collaborates with university advisers, NASA, and the non-profit Planetary Science Institute to discover the most viable asteroids to exploit.
In addition, the company has collaborated with the Colorado School of Mines to evaluate the metal composition of asteroids that may be mined and sold as commodities on Earth or utilized in space.
Gialich affirmed that the second mission would examine the target asteroid’s surface using high-resolution images. But, others the fact that the asteroid is closer to Earth than a rock in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, he refuses to reveal much more information about it.
“The asteroid belts, they’re far away; they would take us like 14-year round trips,” he said. “It’s something that is much better suited for research and exploration. So that’s not a viable business case for us.”
However, the company will travel with Houston-based Intuitive Machines to lunar orbit before moving on to deep space. AstroForge’s spacecraft will travel to the target asteroid in 11 months.
AstroForge is currently preparing its third asteroid mission and its fourth mission, which would be the company’s first refining mission to return platinum to Earth.