ARE WE FINALLY ON THE CUSP OF COMMERCIAL ASTEROID MINING? – by Jamie Carter (Sky and Telescope – February 27, 2023)

Asteroid mining is back in the news. In January, California-based startup AstroForge announced that in 2023 it will lay the foundations to become the first commercial company to mine an asteroid and bring the materials back to Earth. Two missions launching in April and October 2023, both on SpaceX rockets, will test technology and survey a target asteroid.

It’s an exciting proposition, but haven’t we heard all of this before? Over the years, similarly ambitious companies have claimed to be on the cusp of the impossible, among them Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, neither of whom could ultimately finance their plans. What makes AstroForge different?

“The space infrastructure on Earth is pretty mature and we can buy a fairly high-energy launch for a fairly low cost,” says Jose Acain, AstroForge’s cofounder and Chief Technology Officer. He adds that there are also now a lot of satellite manufacturers to choose from; for its CubeSat tests launching this year, AstroForge has chosen Orb Astro in Oxford in the U.K.

“A lot of capital expenses that we would have had if we had started this company 10 or 15 years ago, we don’t have now,” Acain adds, “so we can really focus on the actual mining tech that we need to actually extract these platinum-group metals from these asteroids.”

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