Could this be the year of asteroid mining?
AstroForge, a YC W22 alum based in Huntington Beach, CA, is trying to make it happen. The company announced that it has booked two missions this year to get its asteroid mining tech to orbit and tested as quickly as possible.
Mining asteroids: About a decade ago, a few high-profile asteroid mining ventures failed to get off the ground, leading most to think the idea was neither investable nor commercially viable. Now, though, the cost of launch has dropped dramatically. And AstroForge CEO Matt Gialich thinks the time is right for another shot.
AstroForge closed a $13M seed round in May 2022 to develop and build its mining technology. The startup appears nearly ready to get the technology sent to space.
“We’re not going to have multiple redundancies, we’re not going to think of this in the way of, ‘this mission cannot fail,’” Gialich told Payload then. “We have to go into this in the way of, ‘if this is successful, it will be highly profitable.’”
The 2023 timeline
Mission 1: The company’s first mission, currently set to launch in April of this year aboard a Falcon 9, will send a refinery into orbit to test its mining tech in microgravity. The refinery will come pre-loaded with an “asteroid-like material,” per the company’s blog post, which the refinery will vaporize and then pick out individual components.
Mission 2: The second mission, currently slated for October 2023, will head deeper into space to get eyes on a target asteroid for the company’s first mining expedition.
This mission will launch on a SpaceX lunar rideshare. AstroForge tapped Intuitive Machines, OrbAstro, and Dawn Aerospace to provide components and services for the mission.