Asteroid-mining startup AstroForge raises $13 million, books launch for test mission
AstroForge, which was founded in January 2022, aims to mine platinum-group metals from asteroids and return the valuable resources to Earth. The California-based startup, which was founded in January 2022, came out of stealth mode today (May 26), announcing that it aims to become the first-ever viable asteroid mining company. In its first few months of existence, AstroForge has raised $13 million in seed funding, developed and lab-tested new technology for processing asteroid material and booked a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to test that tech out in orbit. "Our real mission is to take asteroid mining out of the realm of sci-fi into the realm of reality," AstroForge cofounder and CEO Matt Gialich told Space. Over the past decade, a few other companies have announced bold asteroid-mining plans that focused initially on the extraction of water. Those dreams have remained unrealized, and the companies behind them have generally fallen away or reshaped their goals and activities.
So AstroForge will go after an asteroid resource that's in high demand here on Earth right now — platinum-group metals (PGMs). PGM mining on Earth is a messy business that generates a lot of pollution, and the United States isn't blessed with rich reserves of these useful and valuable metals. "Aside from the incredible value of minerals on known asteroids within our reach, AstroForge simultaneously offers a climate solution for Earth and expands our abilities for further deep-space exploration," Brett Gibson, general partner at Initialized Capital, which led the newly announced $13 million funding round, said in a statement. "If we can access the unlimited resources from space, we can move away from harmful mining practices on Earth and get the materials we need to expand our scientific abilities," Gibson said. Related: 10 devastating signs of climate change satellites can see from space AstroForge has developed proprietary material-refining technology that it will use to extract PGMs from space rocks, said Gialich and fellow cofounder Jose Acain, who also serves as the company's chief technology officer.
That technology has been tested in the lab, and it will soon get a chance to show its stuff off Earth, if all goes according to plan: AstroForge has booked a spot on a Falcon 9 "rideshare" mission that could launch as early as January 2023. That launch will send up, among other payloads, an AstroForge 6U cubesat that will extract platinum from a sample it totes to orbit. "We need to go fast, and we're willing to take more risks and go fast," Gialich said. The space ecosystem has evolved considerably in the past decade, with new small-satellite launch providers coming online and established players such as SpaceX opening up their big rockets to small payloads. The cofounders are looking to build out their operation, which is based in Huntington Beach. Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life.
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