Deep Space Industries http://deepspaceindustries.com Space resources company with initial focus on asteroid prospecting, mining, and processing to serve high-value in-space markets. Mon, 29 Jun 2015 05:21:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Silicon Valley Startups Enter the Space Race http://deepspaceindustries.com/silicon-valley-startups-enter-the-space-race/ http://deepspaceindustries.com/silicon-valley-startups-enter-the-space-race/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 05:04:36 +0000 http://deepspaceindustries.com/?p=3672 sjbj-logoWhen Scott Nolan was an undergrad at Cornell studying aerospace engineering, he saw two ways to further the passion he had developed while building and launching rockets as a teen. “The two options looked like going to work at NASA or going to work with a large corporation that was fulfilling space contracts with the government — a Boeing, a Lockheed or Northrup,” said the partner at San Francisco-based Founders Fund.  Read more...]]> deepspaceindustries-faber-3-061215When Scott Nolan was an undergrad at Cornell studying aerospace engineering, he saw two ways to further the passion he had developed while building and launching rockets as a teen.

“The two options looked like going to work at NASA or going to work with a large corporation that was fulfilling space contracts with the government — a Boeing, a Lockheed or Northrup,” said the partner at San Francisco-based Founders Fund.

Then Elon Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — SpaceX — and Nolan became its first intern in 2003. The internship turned into a full-time gig developing reusable Dragon capsules at SpaceX and working on rocket propulsion, giving Nolan — who now invests in space startups — a front-row seat for the “New Space” race.

Musk’s Southern California company, which raised $1 billion early this year from Google and others at a $10 billion valuation, dramatically cut the cost of launching a space mission from $1 billion down to tens of millions.

It is now the poster child for New Space — a group of venture-backed companies that promise to open up space to private investment in a way that was unthinkable 10 years ago and could dramatically cut the cost of launches even further.

Industry analyst NewSpace Global estimates there are now 900 companies involved in the commercialization of space, up from 125 when it started following the sector in 2011. The firm figures more than $10 billion in private money has been invested.

“Historically, investing in space has been viewed like a Viking burial for one’s money,“ said NewSpace Global CEO Dick “Rocket” David. “You put your money in a rocket, you set it on fire and you sent it into space, never to be seen again.”

The success of SpaceX and Google’s acquisition of Skybox Imaging Inc., a Mountain View satellite startup, for $500 million changed that perception.

SpaceX has raised the most private funding by far, but two satellite developers from the Bay Area are No. 2 and No. 3 on the list of the best-funded New Space companies.

They are San Francisco-based satellite startups Planet Labs Inc., which has raised $183 million, and Spire Global Inc., which has raised $26.5 million. A growing number of others are now sprouting in the region, many of them near NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View.

“Now is the time to invest in space,” said Sunil Nagaraj, a vice president at Bessemer Venture Partners whose focus includes the sector. “A new window of opportunity has opened that has been closed for many years.”

While many VCs investing in the sector are lifelong space enthusiasts, Spire CEO Peter Platzer said that isn’t why they are backing companies like his.

“I don’t think anybody is investing in space companies,” he said. “I think people are investing in highly proprietary data and data analytics and one of the areas where you can generate that is from space. That’s what people are investing in.”

And it is profitable, according to Steve Jurvetson, the co-founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson who is on SpaceX’s board and led his firm’s early investment in Planet Labs.

“Both companies are doing spectacularly well, and the prospect is they will do even better,” Jurvetson said. “There is a fellow board member I won’t name who is a veteran old school industrial investor who looked at the numbers for SpaceX and joked, ‘This is like investor porn.’”

While SpaceX, Planet Labs and Spire have generated plenty of attention because of the large amounts of money they have attracted, there are plenty of others in the Bay Area worth paying attention to.

Investment research firm CB Insights reports that SpaceX and Planet Labs were among 21 New Space companies funded by venture investors in the first five months of this year. That has already eclipsed the record set last year of 20 investments in the sector.

Here are four other new space startups worth watching in Silicon Valley.

BAGAVEEV CORP.

Founder and CEO Nadir Bagaveyev says he wants to “democratize space” with his Half Moon Bay startup that is developing 3-D-printed rocket engines. It launched its first test successfully in April.

“We will open up space to Silicon Valley startups,” said Bagaveyev, who took Bagaveev Corp. through two Silicon Valley accelerator programs — Adam Draper’s Boost VC program in Menlo Park and the prestigious Y Combinator program in Mountain View — after moving here from the Mojave Desert in Southern California.

“Sending a satellite into space has been a process that meant piggy-backing on a government or big commercial rocket, and that can take two years or so,” he said. “With us, a startup can get their idea on a rocket at 10 percent to 15 percent of the cost and do it in a matter of months. Innovation in space such as communications, data, new materials, all will be available just like any Silicon Valley idea.”

Bagaveev is close to closing on extended seed funding, Bagaveyev said, and is shooting to begin commercial launches in 18 to 24 months. When that happens, he expects to expand his workforce to more than 100 from the four it has now.

That isn’t the end of Bagaveyev’s space vision, either. Next up on his business plan is to build a small robotic space station in a few years and then a two-man rocket in seven to 10 years.

MOON EXPRESS

Naveen Jain’s Mountain View company is competing for the Google Lunar XPrize, aiming to be the first private company to successfully land a robot on the moon’s surface, travel at least 500 meters and then transmit images back to Earth.

“We are absolutely on track to do it next year but the deadline has been shifted to 2017, so we may take our time and do other things that are going to be amazing businesses,” said co-founder and chairman Jain.

One of those is building an unmanned space shuttle that NASA has contracted with Moon Express to do. The shuttle is expected to launch on one of the space agency’s rockets in October 2016, pick up a payload from the International Space Station and deliver it to a land location on Earth.

“It is a kind of glider,” Jain said. NASA is taking the Moon Express shuttle to the space station in exchange for all of the mission data collected. “The idea for them is to see whether they could build or have us build something that could land on Mars or other planetary bodies.”

Jain said his 45-person company has raised about $30 million of the $50 million to $55 million he projects his lunar landing to cost: “That compares to $2 billion that has been spent to reach the moon in the past.”

DEEP SPACE INDUSTRIES

This is another company operating out of NASA Ames in Mountain View, but its goal is very different.

CEO Daniel Faber plans to mine mineral-rich asteroids near Earth for materials that can be used in space for propellants and as feed stock for 3-D printing. “We don’t plan to bring what we mine back to Earth. We did a lot of research into where the best markets for the materials we find will be and concluded that our best opportunity is in space.”

Faber doesn’t expect the actual mining to start for 10 to 12 years, which he said is in line with how long it can take to start a mining operation on Earth.

In the meantime, Deep Space Industries is lining up customers for the vehicles it is building.

“We are building a platform for other people to build their businesses on,” he said. “We can’t imagine what are going to be the best businesses. If I knew what they might do, we wouldn’t have to engage with entrepreneurs and we could do it ourselves.”

One of the first customers is bitcoin core developer Jeff Garzik’s Dunvegan Space Systems. It plans to launch a series of tiny satellites that would broadcast the bitcoin block chain from space. The plan is for the BitSats to provide security and a backup in space in case the bitcoin network on Earth fails.

MADE IN SPACE

The first 3-D printer on the International Space Station was made by another boot-strapped space startup at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

Made In Space hopes the wrench made by astronauts in December with its historic device will open the door to a host of other uses in the future.

“Space exploration until now has been like a camping trip,” said co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Jason Dunn. “We take everything we need with us and if something goes wrong, we have to get it from Earth or go back home.”

Made In Space’s 3-D printing will allow astronauts to make what they need, when they need it. But it is also sending another printer to the space station that will open commercial possibilities, as well.

“It will be available for use by anybody on the planet,” Dunn said. That means that businesses and scientists on earth will be able to pay to make things on the new printer that can then be sent back to Earth via shuttle or used in space.

“With our printer, if you want to fly something into the International Space Station, you will be able to do it in a matter of hours,” Dunn said, instead of the months or years that it has taken until now. “This opens up a very disruptive new way of getting things into space.”

For a photo gallery showcasing the companies listed above, please click here.

This article originally appeared in the Silicon Valley Business Journal.  The original article can be found here.

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Deep Space Industries shares its sympathies after the SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Failure http://deepspaceindustries.com/deep-space-industries-shares-its-sympathies-after-the-spacex-falcon-9-launch-failure/ http://deepspaceindustries.com/deep-space-industries-shares-its-sympathies-after-the-spacex-falcon-9-launch-failure/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 00:27:58 +0000 http://deepspaceindustries.com/?p=3663 Deep Space Industries is saddened by the failure of the SpaceX launch. We are confident the SpaceX team will determine what went wrong, correct the issue, and be back in space faster than anyone can imagine. Failure is a necessary stepping stone to success and to a safer commercial space future.  Read More...]]> falcon9Deep Space Industries is saddened by the failure of the SpaceX launch. We are confident the SpaceX team will determine what went wrong, correct the issue, and be back in space faster than anyone can imagine. Failure is a necessary stepping stone to success and to a safer commercial space future.

DSI Marketing Director David Gump points out that the United States is becoming more prepared for setbacks, “This event shows the wisdom of U.S. policy to support multiple suppliers for key services, such as SpaceX and Orbital ATK for cargo and SpaceX and Boeing for crew to the space station.”

Space is hard. With the failure of the Russian supply vehicle and this accident, recovery is going to be a tremendous challenge, but we believe they have the right people, the right contingency plans and the ability to make it through the tough times ahead.

Deep Space Industries Chairman and Founder Rick Tumlinson believes these challenges serve as a healthy reminder, “Adversity such as this strengthens us when we are doing something new. Commercial space and a new partnership with NASA are absolutely critical to the future of the United States.”

This is a tremendous improvement from the era of government-only space systems, where failures would keep NASA grounded for years at a time.  With space activities becoming more resilient, the benefits they provide to the world become more reliable.

“Good luck to the SpaceX team in getting the next one up soon, and safely,” said Deep Space Industries CEO Daniel Faber.  Safe, affordable launches are vital to developing a strong economic system in space.  And great companies like SpaceX and ULA are on the forefront of this fight, creating a better future for us all. We salute the hard work, sleepless nights, and incredible scientific minds that keep this industry pushing forward, no matter the obstacles.

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Advanced Space Resource Utilization Technology Projects Supported by New NASA Awards to Deep Space Industries http://deepspaceindustries.com/advanced-space-resource-utilization-technology-projects-supported-by-new-nasa-awards-to-deep-space-industries/ http://deepspaceindustries.com/advanced-space-resource-utilization-technology-projects-supported-by-new-nasa-awards-to-deep-space-industries/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 18:00:29 +0000 http://deepspaceindustries.com/?p=3637 DSI-Dragonfly-picker_BV-21-01-13NASA has selected Deep Space Industries (DSI) for two contracts devoted to developing critical technologies for utilizing asteroid resources. One will support the development of asteroid regolith simulants for terrestrial testing of technologies for excavation and processing of asteroid soil. The second award funds the investigation of methods to manufacture propellant from asteroids material.  Read More...]]> The SBIR and NIAC awards will support development of asteroid regolith simulants and production of in-space propellants

Silicon Valley, CA – NASA has selected Deep Space Industries (DSI) for two contracts devoted to developing critical technologies for utilizing asteroid resources. One will support the development of asteroid regolith simulants for terrestrial testing of technologies for excavation and processing of asteroid soil. The second award funds the investigation of methods to manufacture propellant from asteroids material. These awards represent the third and fourth NASA contracts won by the Silicon Valley based company in its two year history.

“We are excited to be working with NASA again on these new contracts. They show that we are on the same page on the need to do precursor work today that can enable industrial space activities tomorrow,” said Deep Space Industries Chair Rick Tumlinson.  “We thank the agency for allowing us to work with them on such pioneering projects that help both the public and private sectors open the frontier. These projects, along with our commercial contracts, strike the perfect balance and show that DSI is multi-dimensional in approaching our mission to harvest and utilize space resources.”

These NASA contracts come on the heels of DSI’s recent contract with Dunvegan Space Systems to build a 24 nanosatellite “BitSat” constellation.  DSI’s “dual platform” path to success involves developing ground-breaking platforms for others to build their businesses on, specifically by developing the most cutting edge technology in the areas of space hardware and in-space resource utilization.

“A byproduct of our asteroid resource focus is the ability to design and fly innovative commercial spacecraft, like the recently announced BitSat constellation,” said DSI CEO Daniel Faber. “We’re continuing to build such capabilities for commercial customers, while working with NASA to develop our more long-term technologies related to the harvesting and processing of in-space resources. It’s a great fit all around.”

A NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant, titled “In-Space Manufacture of Storable Propellants” will fund research into propellants that can be made from asteroid material, and can be carried on long expeditions without requiring refrigeration.   Carbonaceous chondrite asteroids contain 10 to 30 percent water and other volatiles. Dormant comets may contain up to 75 percent volatiles.  Early ideas for using the water harvested from these resources as an in-space propellant envisioned splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen and then drastically chilling them to create liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.  Currently, these cryogenic fuels must be used almost immediately after launch, before they warm up and boil off.  By contrast, the NIAC award will look into creating room-temperature fuels such as methane, by combining the hydrogen from water with the carbon available on many asteroids.  Storable propellants such as these will not boil off during deep space missions that may take months or years to complete.

“The ability to produce long-life propellants from near Earth asteroids will enable expanded robotic and human exploration of the solar system,” said Faber.  “Delivering propellants to high Earth orbit from the ground now costs $20 million to $30 million per ton, while asteroid-derived fuel, delivered to high Earth orbit, may cost as little as one tenth of current prices, making long-term space missions more practical and affordable.”

A Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant, titled “Task-Specific Asteroid Simulants for Ground Testing” will fund the first phase of research into creating asteroid regolith simulants.  These simulants will be used in the terrestrial testing of harvesting and processing technologies.  Working in conjunction with the University of Central Florida (UCF), DSI will design, prototype, and test a variety of asteroid simulants needed to validate most aspects of asteroid ISRU processes. These include physical simulants for excavation, transfer, and preparation; chemical/mineralogical/volatile simulants for processing tests such as propellant production, metals extraction, and oxygen production; and simulants to evaluate scientific and commercial instrumentation. The simulants created from this project will be commercially available in the near future, improving the validity of any number of scientific and technological experiments in both the private and public sectors.

“Simulants are needed in order to adequately test equipment and processes prior to launch to an actual asteroid. The simulant may need to adequately reproduce the physical characteristics of an asteroid to validate sampling techniques, anchoring methods, or to test hazards such as dust production,” said DSI Chief Scientist and SBIR principal investigator, Dr. John Lewis. “A simulant may need to reproduce the appearance and spectrum of an asteroid, in any of several wavelength ranges. It may need to replicate the mineralogy and possibly the volatiles content to test related instrumentation.  Creating accurate and standardized simulants is a vital step in ensuring the consistency of scientific data in the testing of in-space harvesting and processing technologies.”

Deep Space Industries will complete the first phase of the SBIR by the end of the year, and the NIAC by early 2016, in conjunction with ongoing spacecraft development projects.

“This partnership is symbolic of the agency’s commitment to working with state-of-the-art companies to develop an economic return on the US tax payers’ investment in space research and exploration,” concluded Tumlinson. “NASA is showing great foresight by investing in projects that will enable the private sector to harvest and utilize space resources.”

For more information on Deep Space Industries, including our long term resource utilization strategy and our currently available commercial technologies, please visit DeepSpaceIndustries.com.

 

Deep Space Industries' Asteroid Sampling Concept.  Image Credit:  Bryan Versteeg

Deep Space Industries will develop asteroid regolith simulants for use in terrestrial testing of DSI’s harvesting and processing technologies. This simulant will also be commercially available for scientific and industrial uses throughout the space resource community. Image: Artists concept of DSI’s harvesting technologies. Credit: Bryan Versteeg, Deep Space Industries

mothership concept-bv-13-07-17

DSI is planning a series of reconnaissance spacecraft such as this Mothership craft, which will be sent in search of mineral-rich asteroids. Mothership will deliver nanosats to deep space destinations, acting as the power and communications hub while daughter craft perform exploratory and scientific missions. Credit: Bryan Versteeg, Deep Space Industries

 

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NASA Plans to Work with Private Companies to Retrieve Asteroid Material http://deepspaceindustries.com/nasa-plans-to-work-with-private-companies-to-retrieve-asteroid-material/ http://deepspaceindustries.com/nasa-plans-to-work-with-private-companies-to-retrieve-asteroid-material/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:31:21 +0000 http://deepspaceindustries.com/?p=3579 Asteroid Capture Microspine grippers on the end of the robotics arms are used to grasp and secure the boulder. The microspines use thousands of small spines to dig into the boulder and create a strong grip. An integrated drill will be used to provide final anchoring of the boulder to the capture mechanism. Credit: NASA artist’s concept NASA’s announcement regarding its plan to bring a boulder-size piece of asteroid into the Moon’s orbit also made specific provisions to engage with private sector entities like Deep Space Industries (DSI). Read more...]]> Deep Space Industries Offers Systems and Concepts to Support Agency Project
Asteroid Capture Microspine grippers on the end of the robotics arms are used to grasp and secure the boulder. The microspines use thousands of small spines to dig into the boulder and create a strong grip. An integrated drill will be used to provide final anchoring of the boulder to the capture mechanism. Credit: NASA artist’s concept

Asteroid Capture Microspine grippers on the end of the robotics arms are used to grasp and secure the boulder. The microspines use thousands of small spines to dig into the boulder and create a strong grip. An integrated drill will be used to provide final anchoring of the boulder to the capture mechanism. Credit: NASA artist’s concept

Silicon Valley, CA –NASA’s March 24th announcement regarding its plan to bring a boulder-size piece of asteroid into the Moon’s orbit also made specific provisions to engage with private sector entities like Deep Space Industries (DSI). The agency said after it completes its research, private companies will be allowed access to the returned object to perform their own testing and research.

The agency announced last week the selection of “Option B” as the spacecraft design for its upcoming Asteroid Redirect Mission, scheduled for launch in 2020.  This mission will capture a small boulder from the surface of a near Earth asteroid (NEA) and return it to orbit around the Moon. When the agency completes its own research on the object, NASA plans to allow collaborating U.S. firms to use the material for further development of harvesting and processing technologies.

“NASA’s decision to retrieve a piece of an asteroid is an ambitious and sensible approach for the government,” said Daniel Faber, Deep Space Industries CEO. “Close up study to discern composition of NEAs is important for planetary defense.  Also, the ability to confirm and then capture the right piece of an NEA is going to be critical to the economic harvest of space resources. We look forward to working with the agency in developing this skill in parallel with our own NEA prospecting missions.”

NASA plans to broaden the list of possible ARM target asteroids by using terrestrial radar to confirm the presence of retrievable surface boulders when candidate bodies pass close to Earth. DSI is also interested in such data, both as a consumer of the information and to help validate what is discovered by using its own ‘Prospector’ missions.

“Earlier this year, Deep Space Industries completed two ARM contracts for NASA, including examining how to adapt our prospecting spacecraft to help the agency scout for suitable boulder-size samples on an asteroid surface, and we are eager to continue working with NASA on this project,” said DSI’s Chief Government Marketing Officer, David Gump. “That work also demonstrated the superior value of the pluck-a-boulder option, so we’re very pleased that the agency went with Option B.  Later, when NASA shares access to the object with the private sector, we can also test our technologies to make oxygen, water and rocket propellant, along with refining and processing metals and other materials.  Ready markets exist in space for such materials right now.”

Transforming asteroid resources into products is an important step in developing the gas stations and supply depots needed for expeditions to the Moon and Mars, and the expansion of orbital research stations, communications platforms, and other space infrastructure.

The Asteroid Redirect Mission will demonstrate not only the feasibility of asteroid capture and return but will also experiment with ways to defend Earth by deflecting potentially threatening asteroids.  Deep Space Industries has developed a non-nuclear technology that can more quickly divert Earth-threatening NEAs discovered too late for the “gravity tractor” approach to work.  Deep Space is also offering this alternative for testing during ARM.

“We are ready to support the agency in any way we can,” concluded Faber. “NASA’s leadership shows a sound commitment to the development of the private sector space economy. By working together we can help the U.S. taxpayers get their money’s worth, and help create an industrial base to provide support for human exploration of the solar system, so it’s a win for everyone.”

Deep Space Industries is a space resources and technology company with labs and offices on the NASA Ames Research Park in Silicon Valley.  The company recently announced a contract to build 24 BitSat spacecraft for Dunvegan Space Systems.

DSI-Dragonfly-picker_BV-21-01-13

Deep Space Industries asteroid sampling concept showing material being lifted from an asteroid by a Dragonfly-class spacecraft. Credit: DSI conceptual artist, Bryan Versteeg.

]]> http://deepspaceindustries.com/nasa-plans-to-work-with-private-companies-to-retrieve-asteroid-material/feed/ 0 ‘Space Lawyers’ Help Startups Navigate the Final Legal Frontier http://deepspaceindustries.com/space-lawyers-help-startups-navigate-the-final-legal-frontier/ http://deepspaceindustries.com/space-lawyers-help-startups-navigate-the-final-legal-frontier/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 20:20:07 +0000 http://deepspaceindustries.com/?p=3510 wsj-wallstreetjournal-convertedAttorneys make up new legalese as businesses reach for the stars; spacecraft tort, asteroid mining disputes.  When Sagi Kfir meets people and tells them he is a “space attorney,” they usually think he has a strange way of saying he is in real estate. He says that when he adds that he is chief counsel of an asteroid mining company, people start telling “Star Wars” jokes. One common question: Do you represent Chewbacca or Han Solo? “I’m always the most interesting lawyer at a cocktail party,” says Mr. Kfir, 42 years old.  Read More...]]> Attorneys make up new legalese as businesses reach for the stars; spacecraft tort, asteroid mining disputes

Sagi-WSJWhen Sagi Kfir meets people and tells them he is a “space attorney,” they usually think he has a strange way of saying he is in real estate.

He says that when he adds that he is chief counsel of an asteroid mining company, people start telling “Star Wars” jokes.

One common question: Do you represent Chewbacca or Han Solo?

“I’m always the most interesting lawyer at a cocktail party,” says Mr. Kfir, 42 years old.

Jokes aside, space law is a big deal. A range of commercial space businesses including space hotel startups, satellite providers and companies focused on harvesting resources from asteroids, have matured to the point that they require legal services. Meanwhile, law schools are opening new programs and international symposia are being held.

As the first chief counsel of a space mining company, Mr. Kfir is at the forefront of this odd offshoot of aerospace law. From his office in the modified two-car garage of his house in San Diego, Mr. Kfir spends much of his time mulling some rather otherworldly legal issues.

For example, what happens if one space-mining craft accidentally sends a rock flying into another spacecraft? Who pays for the damage? Or if a company successfully mines an asteroid and brings a precious cargo of platinum back to Earth, does it own the metal?

Space law professors have gone even further in positing legal quandaries.

For instance, if an American astronaut were to be murdered by a British astronaut on the moon, it is generally believed that U.S. courts could handle the case. But if the same astronaut should happen to have his pocket picked by another astronaut, it is unclear whether the victim would have legal recourse. The rationale is that there isn’t any precedent to assert U.S. jurisdiction in a minor crime.

Some new phrases for the legal field: orbital jurisdiction, space tourism liability, asteroid mining disputes, spacecraft tort.

“It’s not science fiction anymore,” said Matthew Schaefer, director of the Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program at the Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln. “There is now real money going into these companies. It’s a huge difference from eight or nine years ago when it was all just an idea.”

Joanne Gabrynowicz, a well-known professor of space law and adviser on three federal aviation committees, shows episodes of “Star Trek” to students to help them imagine space law issues. A favorite from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” series is “A Matter of Perspective,” where Cmdr. William T. Riker is accused of murder on a planet where all suspects are presumed guilty.

Mr. Kfir’s employer, Deep Space Industries Inc., was founded in 2012. The company has aspirations to send spacecraft to asteroids with the ultimate goal of mining their resources and bringing them back to Earth, or using them for other space projects. The first mining effort isn’t expected for at least five years. The details have yet to be worked out.

Born in Israel, Mr. Kfir came to the U.S. in the 1970s, speaking just a few words of English. His earliest memory is watching “Star Wars” during a school field trip.

“Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with anything that flies in the air,” said Mr. Kfir, whose home office is adorned with models from the movie, a painting of a cartoon rocket and a photo of an Indian yogi called Sadhguru.

At the University of Miami School of Law, Mr. Kfir focused on aerospace law and after graduation he mostly worked on issues pertaining to plane crashes. But after a chance encounter several years ago with space entrepreneur Rick Tumlinson, he joined Deep Space Industries as its top lawyer, following what he said was a “natural desire to explore frontiers.”

His old-fashioned parents were skeptical. “They are more down-to-earth,” Mr. Kfir says.

Later, his prospective in-laws needed some convincing, but his wife, Britta, approved of his career choice. (She is also a “Star Wars” fan).

A video on the website of Deep Space Industries shows an animation of a small ship towing an asteroid through space while a husky male voice says: “We don’t build rockets, we don’t do astronomy. We are explorers and harvesters, makers and suppliers.”

Mr. Kfir runs into a certain amount of skepticism when he starts to explain his company and the emerging commercial frontier in space.

His reminds people of other edgy ventures in the history of business, such as the formation of the East India Company in the 17th century. When it first started out, he points out, it faced great risks from the tumultuous sea, pirates and other hostile forces.

“It takes a while but I can usually convince people that it’s a real business,” he said of asteroid mining.

His days at his home office involve hours of conventional legal work, including the drafting of shareholder agreements and contracts. Mr. Kfir also spends a quarter of his work week advising clients in the aviation industry.

But, otherwise, he says, he lets his mind wander as he ponders a human society spread out in settlements across the solar system and a new era of commerce based on extracting resources from other planets and asteroids.

Mr. Kfir said he plans to travel into space himself when the option is available to ordinary people. He would prefer the moon over Mars because he feels he is already familiar with something akin to a Martian landscape. On weekends he goes out exploring the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park near San Diego in a sand-colored 1988 Toyota truck.

“It’s my own little Millennium Falcon,” he said, referring to the famed spaceship of the “Star Wars” films.

This story was originally published by the Wall Street Journal.  You can read the original story here.

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Bitcoin Pioneer Inks Contract for Satellite Constellation http://deepspaceindustries.com/bitcoin-pioneer-inks-contract-for-satellite-constellation/ http://deepspaceindustries.com/bitcoin-pioneer-inks-contract-for-satellite-constellation/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 16:47:59 +0000 http://deepspaceindustries.com/?p=3487 Bitsat Star BackgroundJeff Garzik, Bitcoin pioneer and CEO of Dunvegan Space Systems (DSS) announced he has signed a contract with Deep Space Industries (DSI) to build a 24 BitSat satellite constellation as the first element of a new strategic alliance between the two firms.  Read More...]]> Jeff Garzik’s Dunvegan Space Systems to Partner with Deep Space Industries on New Project
Bitsat Nanosat

Deep Space Industries will build a constellation of 24 nano-sats, called BitSats for Dunvegan Space Systems.

Atlanta, GA – March 12, 2015.  Jeff Garzik, Bitcoin pioneer and CEO of Dunvegan Space Systems (DSS) announced he has signed a contract with Deep Space Industries (DSI) to build a 24 BitSat satellite constellation as the first element of a new strategic alliance between the two firms. The nanosats to be used in the Dunvegan constellation designed by DSI provide an order of magnitude cost advantage over traditional telecommunication satellites.  Based on the industry standard Cubesat form factor, BitSat enables a cost and performance framework that supports the open platform business model employed by Dunvegan.

“Just as Bitcoin is revolutionizing financial exchanges, Dunvegan will do the same for space systems with this project,” said Garzik. “To do it right we needed a partner that was both visionary and technically capable. Once I began to work with Deep Space we realized we had found that partner.”

Building on expertise in open-source software and democratized financial systems, Garzik launched this new company to capitalize on the rapidly emerging commercialization of space and advancements in technology platforms. Dunvegan specializes in distributed applications and computing solutions for the space based market, including Software-as-a Service (SaaS) platforms and financialization of space resources.

“DSI’s long term goal of harvesting space resources is well known, and our first steps involve developing nimble, low cost spacecraft that turn out to be very similar to the needs of Dunvegan,” said DSI CEO Daniel Faber. “Partnering with DSS on the BitSat project allows DSI to ramp up production of our spacecraft avionics suite and implement several improvements. It’s a perfect match all around.”

The DSS constellation will be the first-ever constellation of communication satellites based on open platform principles, with a focus of providing communications, data processing, storage and broadcasting capabilities in space. The deal to build and fly the spacecraft was signed after a several months long interaction between the two firms, including a detailed constellation and spacecraft design project completed last summer by Deep Space at its Silicon Valley based NASA Ames facility.

“This is the first of a number of efforts we have planned with DSI,” said Dunvegan CEO Jeff Garzik. “Dunvegan is focused on providing software and data solutions for our customers, while the partnership with DSI will provide the hardware for this and several upcoming projects. Together we believe we can help transform the ability of people around the world to benefit from space activities, be it in terms of communications or resources.”

Daniel Faber and Jeff Garzik will be participating in a panel session at SXSW Interactive on Monday, March 16 at 11am.  Due to the popularity of the panel, “Big Data in the Off Planet Era” this session is now RSVP only.  If you are a SXSW badge holder, RSVP to attend the panel here:  http://schedule.sxsw.com/2015/events/event_IAP40528 or search using the hashtag #OffPlanet.  Both companies, Deep Space Industries and Dunvegan Space Systems will also be presenting at a special Space Road Show event on Sunday evening.  For more information on this exclusive event for accredited investors, please contact Meagan Crawford at Media@DeepSpaceIndustries.com.

About Dunvegan Space Systems:

Dunvegan Space Systems is preparing to launch the first-ever constellation of communications satellites based on open platforms and computing systems, with a focus on providing data processing, storage and broadcasting capabilities in space. Dunvegan believes that the rapidly emerging commercialization of space represents an untapped market for open-source communication and computing systems that can provide unique advantages over current terrestrial solutions.

About Deep Space Industries Inc.:

Deep Space Industries is a technology and spacecraft design company, currently developing efficient means of utilizing the resources of outer space.  DSI will locate, harvest, and refine asteroid materials and then manufacture and distribute products, propellants and technology solutions to in-space customers.

Dragonfly-class vehicle

Deep Space Industries is developing innovative spacecraft for long-duration deep space missions, including the Firefly- and Dragonfly-class vehicles. The Dragonfly is designed to capture and transport resources of various shapes and sizes.

 

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Daniel Faber, CEO of DSI to Moderate Panel at SXSW http://deepspaceindustries.com/daniel-faber-ceo-of-dsi-to-moderate-panel-at-sxsw/ http://deepspaceindustries.com/daniel-faber-ceo-of-dsi-to-moderate-panel-at-sxsw/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:43:55 +0000 http://deepspaceindustries.com/?p=3101 28c552aDeep Space Industries CEO Daniel Faber will moderate a panel at this years’ South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival on the ramifications of big data in an era of breakthroughs in digital capabilities, space development, and medical innovations.  Read More...]]> Deep Space Industries’ CEO, Daniel Faber will moderate a panel at SXSW discussing the future of Big Data in the Off Planet Era
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Daniel Faber, CEO of Deep Space Industries will moderate a panel at SXSW entitled “Beyond the Cloud: Big Data in the Off Planet Era”

Silicon Valley, CA – February 26, 2015.  Deep Space Industries CEO Daniel Faber will moderate a panel at this years’ South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival on the ramifications of big data in an era of breakthroughs in digital capabilities, space development, and medical innovations.  The panel, “Beyond the Cloud:  Big Data in the Off-Planet Era,” will be featured on Monday March 16th.

As the space industry is growing due to the rapid expansion of commercial space ventures, outer space is becoming more accessible to pioneers in many high tech sectors.  This unique cross over between the most cutting-edge industries makes the future of space utilization a dynamic topic for the tech-savvy audience of the SXSW Interactive Festival.

Panelists will include Martine Rothblatt, Chairman and CEO of United Therapeutics, who previously created SiriusXM Satellite Radio;  Rick Smith, CEO of Taser, who is working to create seamless integration of police body cameras with cloud storage; and Jeff Garzik, CEO of Dunvegan Space Systems.  Dunvegan is a DSI customer, focused on bringing decentralized, networked, open source design principles to spaceflight.  DSI and Dunvegan are working closely to develop innovative solutions to communications and data processing needs in space. With such a diverse group business mavericks, the panel is sure to spark interesting conversation and provide insights into humanity’s future beyond the cloud.

SXSW Interactive is an incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity. The 2015 event features five days of compelling presentations and panels from the brightest minds in emerging technology and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer. From hands-on training to big-picture analysis of the future, SXSW Interactive has become the place to preview the technology of tomorrow, today.

To read more about the panel or purchase tickets to attend, please visit “Beyond the Cloud:  Big Data in the Off-Planet Era,” on the SXSW Interactive website. If you are already planning to attending SXSW, you can find Daniel on SXSW Social here.   Follow DSI on Twitter to get further updates on #SXSW #OffPlanet.

Daniel will be available to discuss the company’s current work and future directions during SXSW. To schedule an interview with him in Austin, between March 13th and 18th, please contact Media@DeepSpaceIndustries.com.

Deep Space Industries is developing innovative spacecraft for long-duration deep space missions, including the Firefly- and Dragonfly-class vehicles.  The Dragonfly is designed to capture and transport resources of various shapes and sizes.

Deep Space Industries is developing innovative spacecraft for long-duration deep space missions, including the Firefly- and Dragonfly-class vehicles. The Dragonfly is designed to capture and transport resources of various shapes and sizes.

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Asteroid Mining 101: A New Book by World-Renowned Expert Dr. John S. Lewis http://deepspaceindustries.com/asteroid-mining-101-now-available/ http://deepspaceindustries.com/asteroid-mining-101-now-available/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 06:40:03 +0000 http://deepspaceindustries.com/?p=3027 AM 101Harvesting space resources to accelerate humanity’s expansion into the solar system is the focus of Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for a New Space Economy, a new book written by globally recognized expert Dr. John S. Lewis.  Read more...]]>
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Front cover of “Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for a New Space Economy,” a new book by Dr. John S. Lewis and available for sale in both hardback and digital editions on SpaceGear.Rocks.

Harvesting space resources to accelerate humanity’s expansion into the solar system is the focus of Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for a New Space Economy, a new book written by globally recognized expert Dr. John S. Lewis.  This fascinating new title is now available in both hardback and downloadable formats on SpaceGear.Rocks

The book documents how space miners are working to discover the richest near Earth asteroids (NEAs) and transform them into the essentials required for an ever-growing human presence beyond the planet’s surface.  The book traces how meteorites – pieces of asteroids that have fallen to Earth – give us a window into the abundant resources that await space miners, from metals to build space settlements to fuel and oxygen to operate them.  However, the most valuable asteroid types carrying abundant water and hydrocarbons remain mysterious – they are so fluffy and fragile that samples almost never reach the ground.  Dr. Lewis notes that the luckiest asteroid prospectors will be those that find NEAs that actually are dormant comets comprised of 75 percent water and other volatiles.

“Reading Asteroid Mining 101 made me want to grab my favorite pickaxe and put on a spacesuit,” said Geoff Notkin, science writer and host of TV’s Meteorite Men and STEM Journals.  “Almost everything that I care most about can be found within the pages of this remarkable work:  meteorites, comets, asteroids, robots, geology, mining and even spaceships.  Dr. Lewis goes into fascinating detail on the origin and composition of meteorites, then takes us on a journey to the asteroids themselves.  The reader begins to grasp the staggering scientific and material wealth awaiting us within these cosmic rubble piles.”

Dr. Lewis estimates that once humanity establishes itself in Earth orbit and beyond, NEA resources could support 400 billion people living in abundance – more than 50 times today’s global population.  These asteroid-derived resources could be recycled and reformed to keep space civilization running indefinitely, relying on the Sun to provide the required energy.

NEAs orbit the Sun in roughly the same path that Earth follows and offer immense opportunities to improve human existence;  12,000 have been charted to date, out of an estimated two million.  Expanding to the main belt asteroids orbiting between Mars and Jupiter would enable a human population 100,000 times larger.  The amount of innovation and accomplishment possible from a space-based civilization is staggering.

Please visit SpaceGear.Rocks to purchase your copy of Asteroid Mining 101 today!

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How Asteroid Mining Could Pay for Our First Space Colony http://deepspaceindustries.com/how-asteroid-mining-could-pay-for-our-first-space-colony/ http://deepspaceindustries.com/how-asteroid-mining-could-pay-for-our-first-space-colony/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 23:32:58 +0000 http://deepspaceindustries.com/?p=3090 gizmodo_03Many of us dream of living on other planets, but are two things we'll need before it can actually happen: money and raw materials. Now some companies say they have a solution to this problem. They'll mine asteroids for valuable metal ores, and for basic resources like water that we'll need once we're far from Earth. Originally published on Gizmodo.com  Read More...]]> gizmodoMany of us dream of living on other planets, but are two things we’ll need before it can actually happen: money and raw materials. Now some companies say they have a solution to this problem. They’ll mine asteroids for valuable metal ores, and for basic resources like water that we’ll need once we’re far from Earth.

Lucky for us, the cosmos is packed with the raw materials we need and crave. Scattered across our galaxy are trillions upon trillions of space rocks, filled with the water, precious metals, and other raw materials we’ll need to fuel our cosmic diaspora.

Mining asteroids is not just a dream—several enterprising companies are already getting the jump on it. Still, the technological barriers are immense, and we’re just beginning to come to grips with the social and political implications of a space-based civilization. Here’s what we already know—and need to know—about the industry that could make it happen.

A Solar System of Riches

Over four billion years ago, the planets and moons of our solar system began to coalesce from primordial dust. So, too, did the asteroids. While we’ve known about space rocks for over two centuries, the vast majority of discoveries have been made in the last two decades, thanks to bigger and better telescopes.

To date, we’ve identified some 10,000 near-Earth asteroids, ranging in size from several meters to hundreds of kilometers across. If that number sounds impressive, rest assured it’s not: By some estimates, there are upwards of a 150 million asteroids in the inner solar system alone.

Astronomers continue to locate more space rocks on the daily, but we’ve already found plenty to be excited about. Many of the asteroids out there are loaded with water, a resource that may, in space, be more precious than gold. As Chris Lewicki, president of the asteroid mining companyPlanetary Resources explained when I spoke with him over the phone, some of this water could be converted to rocket fuel by splitting off the hydrogen. Wet asteroids, then, may serve as cosmic gas stations; watering holes for thirsty spacecrafts and humans alike.

“When you launch a satellite up to orbit, two thirds of the weight is fuel,” Lewicki said. “If we could only refuel things without sending them back to Earth, that would open up a planetary highway.”

Enticing as that sounds, water isn’t even the most valuable commodity locked up inside asteroids. That’d be platinum, and its sister metals, which, renowned for their outstanding catalytic properties, are used in everything from computer hard drives to fuel cells to biomedical equipment. On Earth, these metals are extraordinarily rare: All of the platinum humans have ever managed to dredge from the ground, for instance, could fit inside a small Manhattan apartment. A 500-meter asteroid might contain more.

There’s a reason the private sector is now clamoring to get into space. The first successful asteroid miners may become richest human beings alive.

But before we can start trucking platinum en masse from the stars, space miners have their work cut out designing, testing and deploying the myriad technologies needed to do so. The two companies leading the charge, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, have amassed a slew of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and investors to make it happen.

Asteroid Prospecting

The first task on any would-be asteroid miner’s list is to start pinpointing some seriously lucrative rocks. While we’ve got plenty of near Earths to choose from, a trip to any one of these neighboring bodies is still a major investment, so before we send out the drills, we’d like to get as much intel as we can from afar. This, it turns out, is no trivial problem. Asteroids are small, dark, and difficult to make out within Earth’s obscuring atmosphere. In fact, the best way to get a good look at an asteroid is to put a scope into space.

That’s exactly what Planetary Resources is planning to do. Its Arkyd-100, a crowdfunded scope that weighs less than 25 pounds, will sit in low Earth orbit, peering into nearby space to analyze targeted asteroids. The next-gen version is the Arkyd-300, fondly described by company leaders as humanity’s first Imperial Probe Droid. The 300-series Arkyds, equipped with propulsion systems, will travel in swarms to nearby asteroids. Once they’ve reached a target, the bots will analyze the rock in detail, measuring its size, shape, density and elemental composition, and beam the specs back to Earth using laser-based optical communications.

The company has plans to launch two beta droids this year. If all goes well, the Arkyd-100 will launch in 2016, and the first of the Arkyd-300s will blast off in 2018.

Deep Space Industries is also planning to start small, using cost-effective prospecting crafts to conduct the initial survey work. In 2017, the company hopes to launch its very first FireFlies,laptop-sized spacecraft destined for one-way asteroid recon missions. After targets are confirmed, the choicest rocks will be visited a second time with “DragonFlies”, which’ll bring samples back to Earth for detailed analysis. Eventually, “Harvestors” may be sent out to quite literally pull the most promising suckers back to us.

Juicing a Space Rock

For mining water, we’ll probably go after carbonaceous chrondrites, or C-type asteroids—wet, crumbly rocks with an elemental composition similar to that of the sun. As Popular Mechanics describes, Planetary Resources envisions using its Arkyd swarms to slurp up rocky regolith and funnel the stuff into a processor. The water can then be steamed off and recollected in a separate tank.

A subset of the rocks we squeeze for water—the so-called L4 chrondrites—may also be rich in platinum-group metals. How we extract these metals is likely to depend on a host of factors, including their concentration and the sort of matrix they’re embedded in. “Space rocks are all different,” Rick Tumlinson, Chair of Deep Space Industries, told me in an email. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution to extracting what we need from them.”

Even so, both companies have floated some intriguing possibilities. Planetary Resources cofounder Eric Anderson has described how we can use the sun’s energy to essentially melt down asteroids and concentrate the heat-resistant platinum-group metals. Anderson goes on to explain how giant balls of the platinum might be safely returned to Earth by dropping them into an uninhabited desert somewhere.

Several weeks ago, DSI announced that it’s investigating the feasibility of injecting bioengineered, metal-munching microbes into space rocks. The idea here is that these mining bugs will, over the course of years, chew up an asteroid from the inside out and concentrate the metals for us.

“Certain living creatures, called extremophiles, are able to survive and thrive in environments that would blow your mind, including nuclear reactors,” Tulminson said. “Eventually, we believe that genetic variants of these and similar creatures might be used in space mining processes.”

It’s an awesome idea, but, researchers have been quick to point out, one that’s still very, very preliminary. (There’s the minor challenge of genetically engineering a bug that’s able to sustain a hearty metabolism in the harsh vacuum of space for years on end). At this point, it seems safe to say that any and all options—blasting, melting, eating, vaporizing, magnetically separating—are on the table.

Who Owns the Asteroids?

As we move ever closer to a space-mining future, some thorny legal questions have begun to rear their heads. To wit, under current law, it’s unclear who, if anyone, can legally own an asteroid—a fact which is making early investors squirm in their seats.

“Anybody who wants to go to an asteroid now and extract a resource is facing a large legal open question,” space lawyer Joanne Gabrynowicz told NPR in an interview earlier this month.

Space is a global commons, meaning that all nations have the right to use it and explore it. But when it comes to staking out resources in space, we’ve yet to reach any sort of agreement. Since the United States has obligations to regulate its private space enterprises under international law, the largely US-based asteroid mining industry has been pushing Congress to pass legislation clarifying the matter.

This past September, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing on the Asteroid Act, a five-page bill that would recognize ownership by companies of the resources they’ve extracted from asteroids and, prevent companies from interfering with the operations of competitors. As Slate reported this past fall, the bill was met with support from the commercial space community, but criticism from legal experts. Gabrynowicz, for one, feels that the bill fails to address wide-ranging issues, including whether granting mining rights to a US company is actually legal under international law. You know, details.

For now, at least, it’d seem the asteroids are first come, first serve. We’re becoming the stars of our very own space western.

Post-Earth Economies

Space may be a lawless frontier right now, but this just the beginning. It’s not hard to imagine asteroid mining taking off within the century, and with it, manifold new opportunities for exploration and development opening up. In the future, Deep Space Industries envisions a system of space-based manufacturing, wherein asteroid metals are fed directly into 3D printersto build new mining gear, platforms, and even outer space habitats.

If, as today’s space pioneers hope, we can begin to build and fuel structures off-world using asteroid-derived materials, that cuts out a very expensive middleman—Earth. At which point, manned interstellar missions and outer space settlements might be within reach. One can imagine asteroid depots scattered across the stars, resupplying our 3D-printed spaceships with hydrogen fuel, water, and replacement parts.

“If the door to long-term space travel will ever be opened, it’ll be opened by using the resources of space,” Lewicki said. “From an exploration standpoint, this is the next big push.”

As dangerous as it might be, it’s hard to resist the call of the frontier. If somebody offered me a pickaxe, a spacesuit, and a ticket up, I’m not sure I could refuse.

This story was originally published on Gizmodo.com.  You can read the original story here.

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Asteroid Miners May Get Help from Metal-Munching Microbes http://deepspaceindustries.com/asteroid-miners-may-get-help-from-metal-munching-microbes/ http://deepspaceindustries.com/asteroid-miners-may-get-help-from-metal-munching-microbes/#comments Mon, 02 Feb 2015 19:00:10 +0000 http://deepspaceindustries.com/?p=2884 microbesOver time, the microbes — genetically engineered to process metals efficiently — would break down harmful compounds within the asteroid and/or transform resources into different chemical states that are more amenable to extraction.  Read more...]]> Genetically engineered to process metals, microbes may assist in processing and mining asteroid materials.

Genetically engineered to process metals, microbes may assist in processing and mining asteroid materials.

The scientists working on the concept envision launching a small probe that DSI is developing, called Mothership, out to a promising near-Earth asteroid in deep space. Mothership would be carrying a number of tiny CubeSats, one of which would deploy and spiral down to the asteroid’s surface.

The CubeSat would then inject into the asteroid a low-temperature fluid laden with bacteria, which would propagate through cracks and fissures generated by the injection process. Over time, the microbes — genetically engineered to process metals efficiently — would break down harmful compounds within the asteroid and/or transform resources into different chemical states that are more amenable to extraction.

This work would be slow, but the bacteria would be doing it for free (after the initial expenditure of getting them out to the asteroid, of course).

“The use of self-sustaining biomining mitigates the need for sustained docking, anchoring, drilling, processing or other technically challenging traditional mining approaches,” Grace and his colleagues wrote in a poster they presented at AGU. “If shown to function, the use of life to preprocess valuable deep-space resources could change the economic practicality of a large range of human activity in space.”

This article originally appeared on Space.com.  To view the original article, please click here.

Deep Space Industries Asteroid Capture Concept.  Image Credit:  Bryan Versteeg

Deep Space Industries Asteroid Capture Concept Vehicle. Image Credit: Bryan Versteeg

Deep Space Industries' Asteroid Sampling Concept.  Image Credit:  Bryan Versteeg

Deep Space Industries’ Asteroid Sampling Concept. Image Credit: Bryan Versteeg

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