A billionaire-backed asteroid-mining company aims to start putting its big plans into action soon, launching its first hardware into space by this time next year.
Planetary Resources, which counts Google execs Larry Page and Eric Schmidt among its investors, plans to loft a set of tiny "cubesats" to Earth orbit in early 2014, to test out gear for its first line of asteroid-prospecting spacecraft.
"Our belief and our philosophy is that the best testbed is space itself," Chris Voorhees, Planetary Resources' vice president of spacecraft development, said Wednesday (April 24) during a Google+ Hangout event. [Planetary Resources' Asteroid-Mining Plans (Images)]
"Despite the fact that we're a deep-space company, we're going to use Earth orbit as much as possible," Voorhees added. "For us, it's a valuable learning experience, and that's what we plan on doing one year hence."
The cubesats slated for launch in 2014 will measure 12 inches long by 4 inches wide by 4 inches tall (30 by 10 by 10 centimeters), company officials said. These "Arkyd-3" satellites will test out technologies for Planetary Resources' Arkyd-100 scouts, which the firm hopes to launch to low-Earth orbit on asteroid-hunting missions in 2015.
The Arkyd-3 "is the testbed manifestation of our Arkyd-100 spacecraft. It just happens to be flying," Voorhees said.