Asteroid mining startup AstroForge will test its metal refinery tech in space this year • TechCrunch

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Asteroid mining startup AstroForge is going to space twice this year. This is to do what no other company has been able to do before: unlock the infinite potential value of precious minerals in deep space.

When TechCrunch picked it up AstroForge seed round last Aprilwe noted that the company is planning a demonstration mission later this year. Announced.

An AstroForge refinery operating in a simulated vacuum space. Image credit: Astroforge/Ed Calleon

The first mission will begin in April with SpaceX’s Transporter-7 rideshare launch. Provided by space technology company OrbAstro, his 6U CubeSat will be preloaded with “asteroid-like material” to demonstrate AstroForge’s refining and extraction capabilities in a zero-gravity environment. A second mission will see the company head into deep space to collect data on the surface of an asteroid it hopes to mine within the next decade.

“We had to find a way to take the regolith out of the asteroid and process it in the smelter, and we think we’ve figured out the target asteroid,” CEO Matt Gialich said in an interview with TechCrunch.

He said the company is working with advisors from universities, NASA, and the research nonprofit Institute for Planetary Science to help identify the most promising asteroids to exploit. published a paper In collaboration with the Colorado School of Mines, we are assessing the metal content of asteroids that can be mined on Earth and sold as commodities or used in space.

“The surface textures of metal-rich asteroids have not yet been investigated,” said the paper, and Gialich said that studying the surface of target asteroids using high-resolution images would be part of a second mission. confirmed to be He declined to provide more information about the asteroid, except that it is closer to home than rocks in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

“The asteroid belt is far away and it takes 14 years to get there and back,” he said. “This is much more suitable for research and exploration. […] That’s not a viable business case for us. “

Instead, the company plans to enter lunar orbit with Houston-based Intuitive Machines before moving into deep space. AstroForge’s spacecraft, once again supplied by OrbAstro, heads for her much shorter journey of 11 months to the target asteroid.

AstroForge is actively planning a third mission to land on an asteroid and a fourth mission that will be the company’s first refining mission to bring platinum back to Earth.

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