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Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-6 ready for launch

An artist's rendering of the Arkyd-6, a Planetary Resources asteroid miner prototype CubeSat. The small vehicle will test key technologies that will enable it to prospect for asteroids. Image Credit: Planetary Resources

An artist’s rendering of the Arkyd-6, a Planetary Resources asteroid miner prototype CubeSat. The small vehicle will test key technologies that will enable it to prospect for asteroids. Image Credit: Planetary Resources

After years of development, the Planetary Resources-built Arkyd-6 is finally on the last leg of its journey into space. It is scheduled to be launched as a secondary payload atop India’s PSLV-C40 mission in January 2018.

At approximately 4 by 8 by 12 inches (10 by 20 by 30 centimeters), Arkyd-6 is about twice the size of its predecessor, Arkyd-3R, which was deployed from the International Space Station’s Kibo module airlock in 2015.

The Arkyd-6 contains the technology that will be used in Planetary Resources’ asteroid exploration program such as second-generation avionics, communications, and attitude control systems, as well as orientation systems to aid in attitude control. It also includes the A6 instrument, which will provide infrared images of the Earth in the mid-wave slice of the spectrum.

The broadband imager spans 3 to 5 microns of the infrared spectrum. This slice of the spectrum reveals the presence of water and is sensitive to heat. As such, the A6 can search for traces of water not only on Earth but elsewhere. The ultimate objective of future versions of this instrument is to find water on near-Earth asteroids.

In addition to providing something to drink for future astronauts, water can be used to produce hydrogen fuel and breathable oxygen. Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources CEO, said that the first steps in an asteroid prospecting mission could be taken by 2020.

“We’re testing those out on the Arkyd 6, and the things we learn on that we’re going to move into our next satellites – ones that by the end of 2020 will find their way to a near-Earth asteroid,” Lewicki said in an article on GeekWire.

Lewicki also said the company is developing more relationships with leading mining and energy companies that see asteroid mining as the inevitable future of their business. In 2015, the U.S. Congress passed legislation making it legal for companies to own whatever resources they extract from asteroids.

“There’s action going on in Congress, in the U.S., on figuring out the best ways to essentially make sure that we’re playing along with all the laws and rules, and there’s progress in that area,” Lewicki said.

Other payloads on board the PSLV-C40 rocket will include the NovaSAR S, AMSAT’s Fox-1D CubeSat, Carbonite 2, IITMSAT, PicSat, Kepler 1, CANYVAL-X 1 and 2, KAUSAT 5, SIGMA, Parikshit, the STEP Cube Lab, and Irvine 01.

“Goldman Sachs released a report with an analysis really comparing these projects in space as being, at this point in time, not much different than large projects on Earth,” Lewicki said. “The finances and the risk are the same, the technology is equally accessible, and they said it’s very likely that we’ll see this time of extension into space as we do with traditional mining for all the same reasons.”

According to another GeekWire article, Planetary Resources said: “In the weeks leading up to launch day, we’ll be sharing with you information on the Arkyd-6, its mission and the team who built it – so be on the lookout!”

Video courtesy of Planetary Resources

 

 

 

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Collin R. Skocik has been captivated by space flight since the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia in April of 1981. He frequently attends events hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and has met many astronauts in his experiences at Kennedy Space Center. He is a prolific author of science fiction as well as science and space-related articles. In addition to the Voyage Into the Unknown series, he has also written the short story collection The Future Lives!, the science fiction novel Dreams of the Stars, and the disaster novel The Sunburst Fire. His first print sale was Asteroid Eternia in Encounters magazine. When he is not writing, he provides closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. He lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida.

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