Asteroid mining firm Planetary Resources plans to launch its first spacecraft next week. If all goes according to plan, the company's A3 spacecraft will launch aboard an Orbital Science Corporation Antares rocket on October 28.
UPDATED 10/28/2014: The Orbital Sciences Antares Rocket carrying the A3 demonstrator exploded shortly after launch. Orbital Sciences is reporting a "vehicle anomaly" as the cause. The mission is now under evaluation by NASA. Video of the event can be found here. We wish Planetary Resources the best and hope to see the new A6 on the launch pad very soon.
The craft is named after the Star Wars droid manufactured by Arakyd Industries, a probe deployed to locate galactic resources. The A3 is being sent to the International Space Station, where it will released into space via one of the station's airlocks. The A3 is a low-cost nanosatellite designed to test the avionics, attitude determination, propulsion, and control systems for the upcoming Arkyd 100 space telescope. The Arkyd is an optical and hyperspectral sensing telescope that will begin prospecting for asteroid mining targets in late 2015. It will mark the first time that a space telescope has been deployed for a commercial purpose.
Asteroid mining continues to be a hot topic here on Earth. The European Space Agency's Rosetta probe arrived at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August, and next month will deploy the Philae lander onto the comet's surface. In July we saw the introduction of the of the Asteroid Act -- the first piece of legislation designed to facilitate the commercial exploration of space resources. Now that business enterprises and nations are developing the technologies required to exploit space resources, space lawyers are hard at work laying the legal foundation for the new space economy. Check out the infographic below detailing how this new industry will take shape.
We will be closely tracking the progress of the A3 launch here on FuelSpace, subscribe to our news feed to get the latest updates!