It's either the meeting of two serial fantasists cooking up more hair-brained schemes that will never get off the ground, or it's the dawning of the next era in space travel.
Would-be asteroid mining company, Planetary Resources, and Richard Branson-backed space tourism venture Virgin Galactic are teaming up to reduce the costs of launching spacecraft.
That, said Eric Anderson, co-founder of Planetary Resources is the vital first stage of making asteroid mining a practical and economically-viable reality.
“The more spacecraft that the company launches, the faster it will create a future where access to asteroid resources results in a vast network of propellant depots throughout space and a future where once precious and rare materials are abundant for all,” he said.
Speaking at this year's Farnborough Airshow, Branson revealed that Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne – its liquid-fuelled rocket which resembles a conjoined pair of jumbo jets – will be used to launch satellites in to a low-Earth orbit (LEO) for around $10m a pop.
Now the two space firms have teamed up, ensuring that Planetary Resources' Arkyd space telescopes can also hitch a ride on LauncherOne.
“The less expensive the cost to launch an Arkyd spacecraft to LEO, the more spacecraft the company will launch,” said Anderson.
There's no word yet on when the first Arkyd will be blasted in to space, but Planetary Resources said it expects to launch hundreds of the sky-scouring scopes in the next few years.
The Arkyd fleet will be used to identify and track potential asteroids for mining, the firm claimed.
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