In a nutshell: A mining startup called AstroForge intends to mine asteroids because of their mineral content. The company has two missions planned for 2023 to test the viability of the project. The first will demonstrate perfection in zero gravity conditions in orbit, and the second will fly around the Moon to study the target rock in deep space.
The first AstroForge mission is scheduled for April. He will fly on a SpaceX Transporter-7 rocket. The trip will show investors that the company can mine and process ore in space. The team will use a CubeSat 6U loaded with “astroid” material to test its methods in zero gravity. The company has already proved that its refinery can operate in a vacuum.
AstroForge has not set a date for the second mission, except that it will take place at the end of this year. To do this, the company intends to go into deep space and collect data from the surface of the asteroid.
AstroForge has consultants from several universities, the Planetary Science Institute and NASA who help identify usable space rocks. The team recently published a study with the Colorado School of Mines that examined the metal content of asteroids and how they can be mined and sold on Earth or used in space.
The question left by the study was, do mineral-rich asteroids have an identifiable surface texture? The company believes that yes. His second stay in space should confirm this theory by approaching a specially targeted asteroid and studying its surface using high-resolution images.
Of course, the company does not disclose the location of the asteroid it will be looking at for obvious reasons. AstroForge CEO Matt Gialich would only say that “it’s closer to home than, say, a rock in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.”
“The asteroid belts, they’re far away, they’d take us like a 14-year round trip,” Gialich told TechCrunch. “This is something that is much better suited for research and exploration… This is not a viable economic justification for us.”
The rock that AstroForge has in mind is only an 11-month journey away. He will launch his ship into lunar orbit with a Houston-based space startup called Intuitive Machines. From there, he will make the last journey to the chosen asteroid.
Despite the fact that he has yet to leave the planet, AstroForge is already in the process of planning his next pair of missions. The third will be the landing of the ship on an asteroid, and the fourth will be the processing and transportation of platinum back to Earth.
This is a much more difficult task, but Gialic believes that his team has coped with it.
“We have to find some way to get regolith from the asteroid and process it at our refinery, and we believe we have solved this problem for our target asteroid,” he said.