Planetary Resources has been developing technology they hope to use for asteroid prospecting. In January of this year, the company successfully launched an Arkyd-6 CubeSat aboard an Indian Polar Satellite Launch vehicle. This CubeSat contained six units and was developed to prospect and extract resources from asteroids. In addition to its infrared instrument, the CubeSat also has a distributed computing system, star tracker solar arrays, and an attitude control system.
In-orbit tests have so far been quite successful. Company representatives have told reporters that all of their requirements were met by the tests, making researchers very excited about seeing the mission ąćmove forward. The company also constructed a second spacecraft, to hold in reserve in case the first became lost or damaged in the launch. Since the first craft passed those tests with flying colors, the company is thinking about how they can upgrade the second one, with an eye toward commercial applications.
Despite this success, funding setbacks and a shortage of cash flow have caused the company to re-evaluate their timeline for project completion. One of the company’s backers delayed its investment for its own budgetary reasons, causing the funding shortage. Representatives are hard at work searching for new investors and have several prospects lined up.
The lack of funding has slowed down work on certain projects, but it has not stopped it altogether. Planetary Resources still hopes to perfect their asteroid mining technology and to eventually launch several mining vehicles. Currently, they plan to reinvest any funds gained from commercializing the craft back into the project.
Failure to close a new round of funding resulted in several layoffs. In addition, it has delayed the widescale launch of their prospecting spacecrafts. Initially, Planetary Resources had planned to launch several small crafts as secondary payloads aboard major missions to mine asteroids by 2020. Unfortunately, without the required funding, they have had to delay their planned launch.
The biggest challenge faced by Planetary Resources is the lack of a single, wealthy investor. Instead, they have had to rely on investments of varying sizes from numerous companies. Most space start-ups have a wealthy founder or angel donor eager to continue funding the project throughout other setbacks. Without this type of individual behind them, Planetary Resources has to take advantage of whatever funding it can find. This has raised the question of what type of business model it should pursue.