Deep Space Industries announced on Tuesday, Jan. 22 the plan to launch “FireFly” satellites into space to mine resources found on asteroids.
The FireFly spacecraft is a 55-lb. miniaturized satellite built using CubeSat technology. The FireFly satellites will then be launched using larger communication satellites.
“My smartphone has more computing power than they had on the Apollo moon missions,” said Deep Space Chairman Rick Tumlinson in a press release. “We can make amazing machines smaller, cheaper, and faster than ever before. Imagine a production line of FireFlies, cocked and loaded and ready to fly out to examine any object that gets near the Earth.”
Beginning in 2016, the team will be launching a slightly larger 70-lb. “DragonFly” model for round-trip voyages for samples.
Deep Space Industries will also be utilizing 3-D printing technology for the missions.
The company has a technology called the MicroGravity Foundry for transforming asteroid material into metal parts. The MicroGravity Foundry uses lasers to draw patterns in nickel, creating precise patterns.
“The MicroGravity Foundry is the first 3D printer that creates high-density high-strength metal components even in zero gravity,” said Stephen Covey, a co-Founder of DSI and inventor of the process. “Other metal 3D printers sinter powdered metal, which requires a gravity field and leaves a porous structure, or they use low-melting point metals with less strength.”
Deep Space hopes to harvest asteroids for metals and other building materials, to build communications stations to eventually replace communications satellites, and leading to power stations to send energy to consumers on Earth. DSI will also harvest platinum metals for uses including pollution control devices.