Asteroid Miner to Launch Crowdfunded Space Telescope

Planetary Resources tests their ARKYD-100 space telescope through a crowdfunded campaign.

Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources raised over $1.5M in a Kickstarter campaign to fund the world’s first “public space telescope”, the ARKYD.

Planetary Resources is in business to mine asteroids for their mineral content using cheap robotic space craft.  However, the company’s first step is to identify asteroids that are candidates for mining. To do that they need a fleet of low-cost space telescopes to scan for asteroids near earth.  Enter ARKYD.

Weighing in at 15kg (33lbs) the ARKYD is a tiny telescope whose primary mirror will give it the ability to detect faint objects and perform near-field bright object analysis. The telescope will transmit data back to Earth via its optical communications system.

But the ARKYD isn’t just a scientific satellite.  To attract backers to its Kickstarter campaign, the telescope’s designers have given it an external screen that can display “selfies” of the satellite’s backers with the Earth as their background.

Over 17,000 people joined the Kickstarter campaign raising just over $1.5M to fund the ARKYD space telescope. Because of the immense response to the project three of the campaigns four stretch goals were met.  The first goal, which was the most scientifically important, was set at $1.3M and will establish a second ground station to double the data return of the telescope. Unfortunately, the last goal set at $1.9M, wasn’t met and so the ARKYD will not have exoplanet detection capability, a feature that would have definitely come in handy now that Kepler is dead.

The ARKYD space telescope is set to launch in 2015. This project might even inspire people around the globe to get involved in science and help advance our understanding of the Universe.

Even if those lofty goals aren’t met, Planetary Resources will get the opportunity to launch and test a space telescope capable of scanning the skies for asteroids that might one day be off-world gold mines.

Watch a Video Detailing the ARKYD Project:

Images and Video Courtesy of Planetary Resources