August 22, 2019

Planetoid Mines - A New Asteroid Mining Company

Planetoid Mines is a privately-owned startup based out of New Mexico, USA.  Their team leans on expertise gained at NASA, the US Department of Energy, Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs, and the US Air Force.  Planetoid Mines' primary focus is developing the core components of asteroid mining.  Many of their instruments and tools will be compatible with mining applications on the lunar surface and on Earth.

A lot of activity has been brewing with regards to new space exploration initiatives.  Launch costs are plummeting due to market competition and the development of reusable rockets.  Additionally, there's been a measurable uptick in growth and investment in commercial space ventures.  Every major national space agency has ambitions for operations in lunar orbit and on the lunar surface within the next 5-20 years.

“We believe that lunar water belongs to all humankind.” - CEO Kevin DuPriest

Part of Planetoid Mines' overall strategy is to use the Moon as a test bed for hardware development.  This will help ensure technological readiness and operational efficiencies prior to sending any autonomous mining hardware to an asteroid target.

Developing tools for multiple applications is a way to ensure a steady revenue stream, but it's certainly not a new idea.  In this 2018 podcast interview, Dale Boucher, CEO of Deltion Innovations, discusses in-depth about space mining and developing tools that are also marketable to mining applications on Earth.

When asked about how Planetoid Mines intends to develop a robust business case for space mining, CEO Kevin DuPriest responded, "Our mining infrastructure can be used here on Earth.  Within the first year [of funded operations], we will be able to offer fuel cell products to terrestrial markets.  Our long-term ROI comes from selling mining and processing equipment to space agencies and companies for use on the Moon."  This includes technology for mining regolith, processing water from regolith, and splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen for consumption in fuel cells or cryogenic rocket fuel.

Planetoid Mines claims to have established ongoing research and development relationships to engineer and build these tools for demonstration on a lunar rover.  One of the major difficulties of mining in the lunar environment is low gravity and dust.  Planetoid Mines intends to demonstrate an excavation process using counter-rotating forces to maintain grip, with additional shielding to protect mechanical parts from the lunar dust.  To get an idea of how this works, the closest design to their technology is NASA's Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR) technology.

A mockup of MARCO POLO, an ISRU propellant production technology demonstration simulated mission, was tested in a regolith bin with RASSOR 2.0, the Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot. Source: NASA Kennedy

Planetoid Mines intends to have their first lunar prospecting rover ready to launch and land near the lunar south pole in 2022.  They are developing their own powered descent and landing vehicle and have not yet announced a launch provider.  This is quickly becoming a crowded field of companies vying for a place in NASA's sprint towards the Moon.  Within the past few months, NASA has begun awarding funds for private-public partnerships to develop lunar landing technologies for the Artemis program.

"We are going to the Moon -- to stay." - Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator

One point that sets Planetoid Mines apart is that their revenue model is based on selling equipment.  They have stated that any lunar water or fuel produced during development will be offered freely to anyone.  DuPriest emphasized further, “We believe that lunar water belongs to all humankind.”

To maintain a long-term presence in space, exploration activities will require fuel, power, and other resources.  With dedication, sufficient funding, and a bit of luck, this next generation of space mining companies will be there to sustain them.

This is not a sponsored piece. If you'd like to know more about Planetoid Mines, please visit their website.  They will be announcing a funding round for investors in September 2019.