Planetary Resources has raised $21.1 million in Series A Funding venture capital funding to develop the ability to mine asteroids.
Planetary Resources was initially organized through a Kickstarter project that enabled its 17,614 backers to take “space selfie pictures” with PR’s space telescopes. But with its new institutional funding, the Redmond, Washington company will refund all of its start-up crowdfunding to focus on operating “Ceres.’”
Using Planetary Resources proprietary infrared and hyper-spectral sensors on the company’s proprietary Arkyd spacecraft and network of ten orbiting satellites, Ceres will observe the Earth to make thermographic information and hyper spectral sensor data ommercially available for the first time to identify promising resource development opportunities.
By discerning 40 color bands, ranging from the visible to near-infrared, PR will be able to map the mineral composition of the surface of the Earth for the first time in history.
There are a large number of mature industries that have shown interest in the company’s technical capabilities. Bayer AG and Planetary Resources signed a memorandum of understanding to develop applications and products based on satellite images, including Bayer’s Digital Farming Initiative.
Planetary Resources is also working to provide customized crop data; early detection of wildfires; information on metal deposits; indications of oil & gas drilling opportunities; and remote identification of toxic algae blooms that threaten international water supplies.
Although Planetary Resources started out as a telescope company, Chris Lewicki, president and CEO of Planetary Resources, stated that moving on to satellites “leverages everything that we have been working on for the last several years … and it moves us forward in the direction of asteroid prospecting.”
Lewicki added: “As we continue toward our vision of the expansion of humanity and our economy into the Solar System, our team has been working on the critical technologies required to detect and identify the most commercially viable near-Earth asteroids and their resources.”
Planetary Resources’ supposedly low-cost space platforms are currently in the testing phase, and the company expects to complete an upcoming launch mission to prove the technology’s abilities in space.
According to the company website, Planetary Resources technology will eventually access greater amounts of limited resources on Earth, such as platinum, which is necessary for the manufacture of catalytic converters, jewelry, electronics, medical devices, glass, and turbine blades.
The Planetary Resources management team believes the big payoff will be in developing asteroids as an answer to the “mass-constrained economy on Earth.” Spacecraft propellant, for example, currently costs more per pound than the equivalent of gold on Earth. The company hopes to be part of developing certain asteroids that are loaded with hydrogen and oxygen, the components of rocket fuel.