Origin Space, a Chinese startup founded in 2017, will take its first steps in the race for space mining. It will put the NEO-1 into orbit in November this year, a small 30-kilogram satellite that will be launched by a long-range rocket and will be at an altitude of 500 kilometers.
Yu Tianhong, co-founder of the company described as the first in China focused on the use of space resources, explains that initially the action itself will not be carried out: “The objective is to verify and demonstrate multiple functions, such as orbital maneuvers, simulated capture of celestial bodies and intelligent spaceship identification and control. ”
In 2021, another mission is scheduled to happen, called Yuanwang-1. Nicknamed “Little Hubble”, she will be responsible for putting into operation an optical telescope designed to observe and monitor asteroids close to Earth. According to Origin Space, knowing the right destinations is essential; soon after, the Moon is the destination.
An uncertain market
Tianhong points out that plans to reach Earth’s natural satellite are not finalized, but still include the landing of the NEO-2 device there. This is another provisional mission, which is expected to gradually increase in orbit while observations are being made. In the end, the lunar surface is expected to be reached.
It is no wonder that private interest in the sector has grown, as the Chinese government decided to open its operations in 2014, which led to the growth of the local industry. In the case of asteroid exploration, there is talk of a potential trillion dollars – and Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, announced last week that the agency will buy rock samples from companies as soon as the lunar material is collected.
However, the challenges for the consolidation of the area are many, since, in addition to the North American agency, it is not known who else would be interested in the commercialization of these objects. Brian Weeden, director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, says: “At the moment, the only real customers are the national space agencies that plan to do things on the Moon.”
Yu Tianhong, for his part, does not fail: “We are working hard to accelerate the progress of important projects and, at the same time, generate revenue”.