Arkyd-100 Guts Headed to Space in 2014 as a Cubesat

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As a precursor to the swarm of asteroid-hunting telescopes it is planning to unleash into low Earth orbit in 2015, asteroid mining company Planetary Resources, Bellevue, Wash., is preparing to cram the essential systems of its Arkyd-100 telescope into a triple cubesat set to launch sometime next year.

“We’re calling it Arkyd 3,” Chris Lewicki, the former NASA engineer who is now president and chief asteroid miner at Planetary Resources, said during an April 24 Google+ hangout. He did not identify a launch provider.

Lewicki said the triple cubesat — a standardized small-satellite design that is 30 centimeters long, 10 centimeters deep and 10 centimeters wide — will contain the avionics and attitude determination and orientation instruments Planetary Resources plans to use on its first-generation spacecraft, the 15-kilogram Arkyd-100.

The Arkyd-100, intended to be the basis of future deep-space asteroid mining and prospecting craft, “has gone through a lot of technology maturation,” Lewicki said. When Planetary Resources was announced in April 2012 Lewicki envisioned Arkyd-100 as a 30-kilogram craft. Planetary Resources hopes to market the Arkyd-100 as a cheap space telescope, but the company has not said whether it has booked any orders.