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.

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

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