Why Biomining Could Be The Future Of Space Society

As investment in space technology booms, a trusted mineral extraction technique is under the microscope

By Joseph Smith

Investment in space-based technologies is at an all-time high. An estimated $17.1 billion was invested into 328 space companies by venture capital firms in 2021. Wall Street forecasters project that the ‘space economy’ will be worth trillions within the next 20 years and investment into space infrastructure has already grown by 50% since 2020 with $14.5 billion invested just last year.

One sector that is at the forefront of this rapid growth in space-related industries is space mining. We are now entering an era of commercial resource extraction in space and countries are now competing to gain access to the vast wealth of rare minerals available across our solar system and beyond.

The United States has become the first nation to ratify a law that recognizes property rights regarding materials acquired in space. Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates are not far behind in this respect and are rapidly getting closer to implementing laws regarding space resource extraction. Many other countries, including China and Russia, have also made space mining a matter of national importance.

The potential financial benefits of mining in space are significant. The major asteroid belt in our solar system alone is so rich in mineral wealth that its value would give each person on earth $100 billion. For decades, scientists have puzzled over techniques to extract this wealth from space. However, the technology required to harvest these riches may have been under our noses the entire time in the process of biomining.

Already widely used to extract valuable minerals such as copper, gold, zinc, and cobalt on earth, biomining is a process whereby specific types of microbes leach these valuable metals directly from ores below the earth’s surface. It has been proven to be successful on an industrial scale across Chile. Biomining developments such as Lo Aguirre produced over 300,000 tonnes of copper between 1980 and 2002. Other mines in Chile have exclusively been using bioleaching to extract minerals since 1994.

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Space bricks made using astronaut urine could lead to Martian colony

Humans are working towards establishing a colony on Mars

Human settlements on Mars are one step closer after scientists created ‘space bricks’.

These could be created on the Red Planet by mixing astronauts’ urine with the dusty Martian soil.

The bricks are made by mixing dust with urea, the main compound in urine, and bacteria as well guar gum and nickel chloride.

The slurry can be poured into moulds of any shape and over a few days the bacteria convert the urea into calcium carbonate crystals.

These crystals, as well as biopolymers which are secreted by the bacteria, act as cement that holds the soil particles together.

The new bricks, which were developed by researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, are less porous than others which researchers have tried to use to make Martian bricks.

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China Will Test Planetary Defense by Crashing a Spacecraft into An Asteroid

China’s plans are similar to a NASA mission that will slam into an asteroid later this year.

By Becky Ferreira

China plans to crash a spaceship into an asteroid that is potentially hazardous to Earth to alter its trajectory, a maneuver that caps off a multi-step planetary defense strategy that was outlined by a representative of the nation’s space agency on Sunday, reports SpaceNews. 

The asteroid deflection mission is scheduled for launch sometime in the mid-2020s, according to Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), who described the project during a celebration of China’s Space Day, which commemorates the launch of the nation’s first satellite, Dongfanghong-1, on April 24, 1970.

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SpinLaunch signs Space Act Agreement to test innovative mass accelerator launch system

SpinLaunch has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA. Through this partnership, SpinLaunch will develop, integrate, and fly a NASA payload on the company’s Suborbital Accelerator Launch System to provide valuable information to NASA for potential future commercial launch opportunities.

The Space Act Agreement is part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, which demonstrates promising technologies for space exploration, discovery, and the expansion of space commerce through suborbital testing with industry flight providers.

The program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the solicitation and evaluation of technologies to be tested on commercial flight vehicles.

SpinLaunch will manifest and fly the first NASA payload on a developmental test flight later this year and provide means for post-flight recovery of payload back to NASA. The two organizations will work jointly to analyze the data and assess the system for future flight opportunities. After full review, NASA and SpinLaunch will publish all non-proprietary launch environment information from the test flight.

“SpinLaunch is offering a unique suborbital flight and high-speed testing service, and the recent launch agreement with NASA marks a key inflection point as SpinLaunch shifts focus from technology development to commercial offerings,” said Jonathan Yaney, Founder and CEO of SpinLaunch. “What started as an innovative idea to make space more accessible has materialized into a technically mature and game-changing approach to launch. We look forward to announcing more partners and customers soon, and greatly appreciate NASA’s continued interest and support in SpinLaunch.”

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Tiny satellites are changing the way we explore our planet and beyond

Want to go to space? It could cost you. 

This month, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will make the first fully-private, crewed flight to the International Space Station. The going price for a seat is US$55 million. The ticket comes with an eight-day stay on the space station, including room and board – and unrivalled views. 

Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin offer cheaper alternatives, which will fly you to the edge of space for a mere US$250,000-500,000. But the flights only last between ten and 15 minutes, barely enough time to enjoy an in-flight snack.

But if you’re happy to keep your feet on the ground, things start to look more affordable. Over the past 20 years, advances in tiny satellite technology have brought Earth orbit within reach for small countries, private companies, university researchers, and even do-it-yourself hobbyists.

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The space economy is ready for lift-off: First into orbit, and then to the Moon

For graduate students with good ideas for the space industry, now is the time to get your foot in the door, NASA leaders said at the 37th annual Space Symposium.

2022 is set to be a major year for the space economy. According to the Space Foundation, 15 new launch vehicles are set to debut this year, more than any other year in space history. Last year, US spaceports had more launches than any year since 1967, and the number is climbing. Meanwhile, employment in the core US space industry employment is at a 10-year high. 

The momentum is there for a flourishing space economy that, according to NASA leaders, could in 20 years take public and private missions beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), with services and infrastructure on the lunar surface and in cislunar space. It’s a fast-growing economy, NASA leaders said at the 37th Space Symposium, that offers promising opportunities for young people who want to get their foot in the door. 

The space economy is already a $400 billion industry “and on the way to $1 trillion, and I suspect it’ll get there faster than we think,” James Reuter, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA, said during a panel this week at the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. 

“It’s not just venture capitalists that are geeks for space” that are bringing this economy to life, Reuter said. “It’s also much more conventional people looking for opportunities. There’s a lot more opportunities for capital investment.” 

And while investments in LEO are a mainstay, he said, “there’s a strong push towards cislunar space… We’re seeing a lot of investment we can take advantage of.” 

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Nasa’s SPHEREx spacecraft to scan entire sky to create cosmic map

SPHEREx will scan over 99 per cent of the sky every six months. 

LOS ANGELES (XINHUA) – Nasa’s upcoming SPHEREx mission will be able to scan the entire sky every six months and create a map of the cosmos unlike any before, according to a plan the agency unveiled on Thursday (March 24).

Scheduled to launch no later than April 2025, the SPHEREx mission will probe what happened within the first second after the big bang, how galaxies form and evolve, and the prevalence of molecules critical to the formation of life, according to Nasa.

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New funding to help develop space power station and create water hunting robot

New funding will help develop space power station and create water hunting robots

By Nina Massey

Projects include Rolls-Royce developing a power station for space that could allow water and breathable oxygen to be generated.

British space technology could help develop a power station in space, create a robot to hunt for oxygen and water in lunar rocks and tackle issues such as the delay in communication between Earth and Mars.

New funding will pave the way for pioneering approaches to energy, communication and resources, thanks to projects from the UK Space Agency (UKSA).

The projects include Rolls-Royce developing a power station for space that could allow water and breathable oxygen to be generated.

In addition to discovery breakthroughs, these projects will also ensure that people here on Earth benefit from new technology, including micro-reactor technology with the potential to support our net zero commitments

Another will develop new technology that can withstand the high radiation levels on Mars, while a third will build a communications tool for astronauts to tackle the delay in conversations between Mars and Earth.

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A New System Has Been Designed That Can Destroy Dangerous Asteroids Approaching Earth Within Hours

By Daniel Kucher

A new system has been designed that can protect our planet from asteroids. With the new system, it was claimed that asteroids could be destroyed in just days or even hours depending on their size.

Asteroids have the potential to wipe out all life on Earth and even destroy the planet, just like the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Fortunately, however, technology and science have advanced a lot since the dinosaurs were wiped out millions of years ago.

We now have technologies that scan the sky to detect potentially dangerous asteroids for Earth. Of course, it’s not just about detecting asteroids: As those of you who watched the movie Don’t Look Up will remember, if we were to detect an asteroid on a collision course with our planet, we probably wouldn’t have enough time to respond to it. That’s why NASA is conducting research for a defense system that can destroy an asteroid that could destroy the Earth days or weeks before.

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Firm planning 100,000 satellites claims it will “clean space” by capturing debris

E-Space claims its satellites will “capture debris… to prevent further collisions.”

By JON BRODKIN

A company led by satellite-industry veteran Greg Wyler says it plans to launch about 100,000 small communication satellites into low Earth orbit. The company, E-Space, yesterday announced that it received a $50 million investment and that it will launch its first test satellites next month, with “mass production… slated for 2023.”

E-Space said it has “filings in hand for potentially over 100,000 secure communication satellites,” but there are suggestions that the company wants to launch over 300,000 satellites. Prime Movers Lab, which led the $50 million investment round, said that E-Space’s network will have “up to hundreds of thousands of secure communication satellites” and described the devices as “micro-satellites.”

E-Space said its platform will “help governments and large companies build space-based applications in a capital-light manner” for uses “ranging from secure communications to managing remote infrastructure.” E-Space says its satellites will use a peer-to-peer communication model, and the company’s website describes the plan as a “multi-application cloud server in space… powered by E-Space’s rapidly scalable optical 5G mesh network.”

E-Space’s announcement said the $50 million investment fully funds a “‘Beta 1’ launch of its first test satellites in March 2022 as well as its second ‘Beta 2’ launch later this year.” E-Space “is composed of two independent entities” based in France and the US. Wyler, E-Space’s founder and chairman, previously founded OneWeb and O3b Networks. OneWeb exited bankruptcy in November 2020 and is launching broadband satellites, but Wyler is no longer involved with the company. 

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EU launches billion euro fund for space startups

The Cassini fund has been announced for innovation in the space in Europe promising to be a far-reaching endeavor that acts a catalyst for private players in the space and earth observation sector. 

By Snehil Manohar Singh

CASSINI is a €1 billion ($1.1 billion) space fund that intends to provide impetus to startups and space innovation within the EU. As the European Commission’s official page for CASSINI describes, the initiative seeks to support entrepreneurship among space-related businesses in the European Union (EU). In particular, it caters to the needs of companies in different growth stages from seed to mid-caps, and to companies developing space technology as well as digital applications for various markets, by improving access to investments and professional networks (CASSINI – Space Entrepreneurship Initiative).

It was in January 2021 that Commissioner Thierry Breton announced that the European Commission would set up CASSINI. It is a watershed moment where, government agencies have for the first time, in the region, actively sought collaboration with private parties — not just for operational convenience, but for a truly symbiotic arrangement.

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Space Power to revolutionize satellite power using laser beaming

Wireless power beaming will provide auxiliary power to increase the baseline efficiency of small satellites in lower Earth orbit

The University of Surrey and Space Power are tackling the problem of powering satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) during their eclipse period when they cannot see the sun. By collaborating on a space infrastructure project, the joint team will develop new technology which uses lasers to beam solar power from satellites under solar illumination to small satellites orbiting closer to Earth during eclipse. The wireless, laser-based power beaming prototype will be the first developed outside of governmental organisations and is aiming for commercialisation by 2025.

Wireless power beaming is a critical and disruptive technology for space infrastructure and will provide auxiliary power to increase the baseline efficiency of small satellites in LEO. The technical side of the project will use the highly specialised laser laboratories and optical systems developed at the University of Surrey’s Department of Physics and Advanced Technology Institute, which are world leaders in the development and implementation of laser and photovoltaic-based technologies. The first Space Power product will be designed as a plug-and-play system for satellite manufacturers to include in their offering to their LEO constellation customers.

Without new power technologies like this, which will enable small satellites to function all the time, more satellites are needed, with the resultant costs, launch emissions and contribution to space debris. As humanity finds more ambitious and useful tasks for small satellites, the problem grows.

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