Asteroid mining startup delivers first test mission with SpaceX

  • Startup AstroForge has booked its first test mission with SpaceX.
  • It aims to gather valuable rare minerals in space and bring them back to Earth.
  • The company was founded in January by former SpaceX and Virgin Orbit engineers.

A new asteroid mining company has booked its first test mission with SpaceX.

AstroForge plans to mine asteroids by breaking them down and returning valuable materials to Earth. It was co-founded by former SpaceX engineer Jose Acain and former Virgin Orbit and Galactic engineer Matt Gialich.

It is scheduled to test its technology in orbit next year, using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the launch.

Asteroid mining has long been considered a lucrative industry, but it has yet to become commercially viable.

The company will start with platinum group metals, which are used in everything from catalytic converters in cars to electronics. “A very interesting metal to have, but they are very limited,” said Gialich, who is CEO, on a LinkedIn video.

Metallic asteroids contain mainly iron and nickelbut some also contain platinum, gold and cobalt.

The shift to a green economy has seen demand for certain metals soar. Cobalt, for example, is mainly used in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

“We’re continuously mining the Earth for all of its resources, not just platinum but everything. We’re seeing this damage across the board. I mean, on the EV side, we have a huge lithium problem right now. We’re making these extremely destructive mines … there are economic problems [and] there are social problems caused by them. All in all, it’s just not a good thing,” Gialich said.

“We have all these resources in space flying around us in high concentrations.”

The startup, founded in January, is backed by the prestigious accelerator Y Combinator, which has helped companies such as Reddit, Airbnb and Stripe.

AstroForge recently raised $13 million in seed funding from venture capital firm Initialized Capital.

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