Potential space miner Planetary Resources has hit its first hurdle after its test mining vehicle was destroyed when its unmanned rocket exploded soon after take-off.
The asteroid mining company saw its Arkyd 3 (A3) test vehicle, which was being delivered to the International Space Station before being deployed into low-Earth orbit, blow up along with the rocket, contracted to Orbital Sciences Corp by NASA, according to Forbes.
Speaking on the loss, Planetary Resources said“of course our team was disappointed as we watched the Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket fail shortly after lift-off”.
“A scenario like this is part of any early-stage company, and certainly for companies like ours that are striving towards such an audacious mission. It would be very surprising if failures or setbacks like this did not occur, which is why we plan for them.
“All of us appreciate the physical grit and emotional toll that went into the fabrication not only of the vehicle itself, but also from the many organisations who had payloads onboard.”
Fellow potential space miner, Deep Space Industries, offered its condolences to Planetary Resources.
“We stand with our brothers and sisters at Planetary Resources on the loss of their first ARKYD spacecraft in today’s accident at Wallops Island,” Deep Space CEO Daniel Faber said.
“We know how hard they have been working, and the high expectations we all had for their first mission. Even as we design and prepare our own spacecraft, we recognize that a loss for one of us is a loss for all.”
According to Planetary “the A3 was due to hibernate on the ISS for a few months until the crew deployed it into low-Earth orbit (LEO) out of the Japanese “Kibo” airlock”.
“Its mission was to space-test the avionics and controls systems, show us the strong points, failure points, and then burn-up in the atmosphere as its orbit slowly degraded back to Earth after about 90 days.”
Despite this setback the miner said its plans remain unaffected.
“In fact, we are already hard at work developing our next test vehicle, the Arkyd 6, which is planned for launch in Q3 2015. It will build on the learnings from our development of the A3 and iterate to our next level of design,” Planetary Resources said.
The potential of space mining recently took a leap forward in the US, after the nation drafted a new bill to aid development of the industry.