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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.