Planetary Resources, the U.S.-based start-up aiming to mine asteroids, lost its first test satellite aboard a commercial rocket that exploded only six seconds after take-off Tuesday.
The unmanned rocket, contracted to Orbital Sciences Corp. by NASA, was carrying supplies to the International Space Station. Among the cargo was Planetary Resources’ Arkyd A3, a test vehicle that was to orbit Earth.
Shortly after the explosion, the company Tweeted: “Live to fly another day. Onward!,” followed by a “Cheer up everybody – A3 was just a robot! We are making more.”
Competitor Deep Space Industries took the defeat to heart and issued a press release saying that “a loss for one of us is a loss for all.”
“We know how hard they have been working, and the high expectations we all had for their first mission.”
Arkyd A3 had been designed to test and validate technology and software for the asteroid miner’s planned Arkyd-100 space telescopes. It would have been the first of a series of orbital test flights scheduled for Planetary Resources, while Deep Space Industries’ test flights will begin in 2015.
Asteroids are rich in valuable minerals. An M-type asteroid, the third most common type, just one km diameter could contain more than two billion tons of iron ore and nickel, not too mention other riches such as platinum and diamonds.
Watch the explosion as it happened here: