Funding shortfall causes Planetary Resources to cut back


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Because of their failure to close a round of investment fund-raising, Planetary Resources has been forced to cut back, including some layoffs and delaying several proposed later missions.

The delayed investment, though, forced Planetary Resources to lay off some of its employees. Lewicki declined to say how many were let go from a peak of 70 employees prior to the layoffs.

That setback also affects the schedule for future asteroid prospecting missions. In his conference talk, Lewicki showed a video of a planned mission where several small spacecraft, launched as secondary payloads, fly to near Earth asteroids to measure their water content. In past presentations featuring that video, company officials said the mission was scheduled for launch in 2020.

However, Lewicki didn’t state in this talk when that mission would launch, and acknowledged later the funding problems would delay it until some time after 2020. “The 2020 date was assuming we would get all the necessary financing on schedule last year,” he said.

To me, this article illustrates why Planetary Resources failed to obtain its investment funds. They pitch themselves as an asteroid mining company, but very little of what they are doing has anything to do with actual mining, or obtaining profits from that mining. At the moment, they remain an Earth observation company with capabilities not as good as a host of other similar companies expressly dedicated to this task.

I say this not because I am against asteroid mining, or think it cannot make a profit. I just think Planetary Resources has oversold itself, which can be deadly in the harsh competitive market.

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2 comments

  • Tom Billings

    “I just think Planetary Resources has oversold itself, which can be deadly in the harsh competitive market.”

    Rather worse, they first talked about the mining of asteroids, without releasing info on *what* it specifically was they were doing to *find* asteroids, beyond making it into a nice worldwide student’s project. They were convinced to *not* bet on the Falcon Heavy being available, by someone I do not know about.

    Then, when they started talking to Luxembourg’s opponents to their economics minister, which opponents urged them to generate revenue by starting with *Earth* resources (actually harder to sense from orbit than from orbits around asteroids’ surfaces), it diverted their attention from getting ready to use the abilities of Falcon Heavy.

    In short, they started with being mostly honest, but too were too progressive in their followup schemes. Then they fell for the old trap of hierarchs of “do something first that attracts *our* interest”. Then they found that said “interest” was an illusion tarted up to cause a misstep, so that the economics minister would look bad as well as themselves. Now they are stuck without a prospector spacecraft that has the ion engine that would allow them to search through their best 10-20 candidates, to start interesting investors who are *not* hierarchs in the crony capitalist world of the EU.

  • It will be interesting to see what sort of regulatory environment space mining companies will operate under. If you can get a rocket to a rock, it’s not a big step to attach that rocket to the rock and move it. There are many variables, but if people start regularly accessing the asteroids, it’s going to create a whole new class of security problems.

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