We want to focus on the exploration of extraterrestrial resources and provide economically usable data to forward-thinking space mining companies.
Mankind’s demand for raw materials is ever increasing, at the same time, exploration and extraction are becoming more and more complicated. Recycling raw materials can only counteract the shortage to a limited extent. New sources of raw materials are needed, which leads to a lot of interest in methods whose environmental damage can hardly be estimated (e.g. deep-sea mining). Processes with high ecological risks will nevertheless be used in the future to provide the required raw materials.
We wonder why we don’t take a look into our solar system instead?
Many of the raw materials we need can be found on or in other celestial bodies, e.g. asteroids. But why don't we mine the raw materials in the solar system?
The greatest problem is the poor data situation. Thousands of asteroids have been studied by remote sensing techniques, but only a few have been studied in detail by space missions. Remote sensing (e.g. spectroscopy) provides important information about the exact composition of the surface but only with additional information like the mass (e.g. moon in orbit of the asteroid) the raw material content can be estimated very roughly. Even in these rare cases, remote sensing methods do not allow insight into the internal structure of the asteroid. However, the study of the internal structure is very important to estimate the exact raw material amounts. Not only for estimating the amount of raw material but also for planning a later mining mission, the information about the interior is crucial. Are the raw materials located at a certain depth? Is there some kind of a core? What do density gradients look like? These are some of the important questions that only on-site exploration can answer.
Even if one decides for the high risk to fly to an asteroid without exact knowledge of the raw material content and mining possibilities, one meets further problems. Due to the poor data situation, which is only based on remote sensing methods, one has no knowledge about e.g. the gravity field, possible gas emissions or dangerous objects in the asteroid's environment. However, many of the patented or published mining techniques require such data, for example to land precisely on asteroids to drill.
Space probes that carry all the equipment needed for asteroid exploration (e.g. magnetometers) as well as all the equipment needed to mine the raw materials cannot possibly be economical. It is now clear why exploration must be separated from mining.
Only after a successful on-site exploration of the asteroid by an appropriately equipped exploration spacecraft is an economic evaluation possible. This evaluation is not only based on the pure occurrence of raw materials but also on their exploitability. Our (work in progress) economic valuation system for asteroids also includes other relevant points (e.g. orbit stability).
In summary: Exploration of an asteroid is not only a step of a mining mission but it is the crucial step and should be considered as a mission in its own right. Remote sensing plays a important role in the pre-selection, but it is not enough. An exploration mission can remove many uncertainties and reduce the risk of significantly more complex mining missions. A first step towards making space mining plannable and profitable.
We are working on the geophysical processes for the exploration of raw materials on asteroids and aim to become the first exploration company for extraterrestrial raw materials.