Some time in the next 18 to 24 months, Planetary Resources, Inc. will launch a series of mass-produced 9″ space telescopes, dubbed Arkyd Series 100 spacecraft. They’re specifically designed to identify which of the roughly 8,900 near-Earth asteroids are both smaller than 50 meters and suitable targets for retrieval back to Earth orbit. These small near-Earth asteroids represent a transient population, with life spans in the millions of years, typically cut short by running into a planet or being thrown out of the solar system by Jupiter.
That mission, according to Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson, will be completed well enough within the ensuing year or two that the follow-up spacecraft, the Arkyd Series 200, can track some of these asteroids as they fly by in high Earth orbit. Still later, Arkyd Series 300 swarm spacecraft can begin launching to survey those asteroids from a closer perspective, gathering information on spin, shape, and composition.
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Planetary Resources set to begin hunt for asteroids to mine in 18-24 months