Space miner Planetary Resources teams up with Virgin

Hopeful asteroid miner Planetary Resources has announced it is partnering with fellow space focused company Virgin Galactic.

This agreement will allow the miner to launch spacecraft into low orbit.

Last month the company announced that within 21 months it would be ready to launch its first telescopes to find asteroids to mine.

According to Planetary this agreement "will enable multiple launch opportunities for [Virgin's] series of spacecraft, including the Arkyd-100 low-Earth orbit (LEO) space telescopes".

"While the Arkyd spacecraft line itself radically reduces the traditional cost of exploring the near earth asteroids, the less expensive the cost to launch an Arkyd spacecraft to low earth orbit, the more spacecraft the company will launch," Planetary's chairman Eric Anderson explained.  

"The more spacecraft that the company launches, the faster it will create a future where access to asteroid resources results in a vast network of propellant depots throughout space and a future where once precious and rare materials are abundant for all."

It will use its craft known as LauncherOne to carry the telescopes into the upper atmosphere, Forbes reports.

Virgin Galactic's CEO George Whitesides added that "we are developing the LauncherOne to deliver small satellites to LEO in a reliable fashion, with the capability to fly dozens of times per year.  LauncherOne leverages our work in the area of commercial human spaceflight, and will provide reliable, regular launch opportunities to enable Planetary Resources to explore and develop valuable resources from asteroids".

This most recent announcement comes less than six months after the world's five largest space agencies gathered to discuss the possibility of mining on the moon.

Several countries, including China, have already expressed an interest in mining the moon's resources and a number of prototype machines already exist.

The moon contains reserves of gold, platinum-group elements, and rare earths minerals.

It also contains compounds not readily available on Earth, including Helium-3, a gas that could potentially be used in power generation.

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