NASA awarded $125,000 to a mining company to develop technology to extract minerals embedded in asteroids.
NASA will pay Deep Space Industries (DSI) for technology to return mined minerals from asteroids to Earth’s orbit. DSI is developing a way to use aerobraking to bring minerals back to Earth.
DSI said the grant will support the company’s research into creating aerobrakes out of materials found on near-Earth asteroids.
“Using aerobrakes instead of propellant will expand by 30 to 100 times the number of asteroids where water and other supplies can be affordably delivered to markets in Earth orbit,” Grant Bonin, chief technology officer of Deep Space Industries, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Space resources are a game changer for opening space to humankind in a meaningful way, and this technology only further increases how accessible such resources can become for our collective future,” Bonin said.
Aerobrakes will surround mined asteroid minerals with a heat shield to create enough drag to slow down the payload as it dips into the Earth’s atmosphere. Mineral payloads can delivered to DSI’s customers in orbit after deceleration.
The company plans to sell the air, building materials, water and propellant mined from asteroids. Mining resources in space is far cheaper than launching from Earth.
DSI’s has intentions to rendezvous a probe with a near-Earth asteroid by 2020 to assess its value for mining. (RELATED: This Space Company Plans To Mine Asteroids By 2020)
The Trump administration wants to spur the ongoing commercial space race, hoping new growth and technologies generated will yield economic benefits.
Billionaire-turned space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow called Trump’s election an “early Christmas present for the country and for NASA” and thinks the new president could double NASA’s budget for commercial operations. (RELATED: This Space Billionaire Wants To Double Trump’s NASA Budget)
Congress has also tried to get in on the action.
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