Chinese company sets out first steps towards extracting space resources.
The possibility of space mining has long captured the imagination and even inspired business ventures. Now, a space startup in China is taking its first steps towards testing capabilities to identify and extract off-Earth resources.
Origin Space, a Beijing-based private space resources company, is set to launch its first ‘space mining robot’ in November. NEO-1 is a small (around 30 kilograms) satellite intended to enter a 500-kilometer-altitude sun-synchronous orbit. It will be launched by a Chinese Long March series rocket as a secondary payload.
This small spacecraft will not be doing actual mining; instead, it will be testing technologies. “The goal is to verify and demonstrate multiple functions such as spacecraft orbital maneuver, simulated small celestial body capture, intelligent spacecraft identification and control,” says Yu Tianhong, an Origin Space co-founder.
Origin Space, established in 2017, describes itself as China’s first firm focused on the utilization of space resources. China’s private space sector emerged following a 2014 government decision to open up the industry. Because asteroid mining has often been talked of as potentially a trillion-dollar industry, it is no surprise that a company focused on this area has joined the likes of others developing rockets and small satellites.
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