Mining in Deep Space: Astro Forge Announces 2023 Missions
AstroForge is attempting to become the first commercial company to mine an asteroid. After securing $13 million in seed money last May, the company has announced its first mission will take place in April 2023 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle in partnership with satellite and in-orbit service provider OrbAstro.
AstroForge plans to demonstrate its refinery capabilities and validate its technology for performing extractions in zero gravity during the mission. The company’s spacecraft will launch preloaded with an asteroid-like material that the refinery payload will vaporize and sort into elemental components.
A second mission will take place in Oct. 2023 on a SpaceX lunar rideshare with Intuitive Machines, OrbAstro and in-space propulsion company Dawn Aerospace. In a press release, the company announced that during the second mission, “a spacecraft will head into deep space to observe our target asteroid in preparation for our first retrieval mission.”
According to the release, the concept of asteroid mining has been around for decades, but only recently have technological advancements made it a near-term possibility. “Our goal is to be the first and most efficient asteroid mining company in the world,” stated AstroForge.
Many commercial venture companies, startups and academic institutions are exploring the possibility of mining in space and “the era of space resources” has begun according to “Space Resources: Leading the Way to a Prosperous Future,” by Kevin Cannon et al., “New Space,” Vol. 10, No. 2, 2022. “Learning to use regolith and ice concentrated sunlight will greatly expand our reach and sustainable presence in space, and it can also improve conditions on Earth,” said Cannon.