Although we have known for a long time that asteroids are not just cosmic trash but rather potentially valuable stores of precious minerals, humanity has never been able to realize the full potential of these objects. Astroforge, a Y Combinator startup, intends to become the first company to mine an asteroid and return the material back to Earth.
It plans to achieve this as soon as the end of the decade. The firm has raised a $13 million seed investment to support its early operations. According to co-founder Matt Gialich, this money will take Astroforge through its first two missions, which will include an initial demonstration flight that will fly on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission next year.
Initialized Capital spearheaded the seed round, which also included contributions from Seven Seven Six, EarthRise, Aera VC, Liquid 2, and Soma. Gialich and Jose Acain, two of Astroforge’s co-founders, claim to have created an inventive method for refining resources in space, but for the time being, they aren’t saying anything about it or how it addresses the numerous technical issues that make asteroid mining so infamous.
They were able to explain that the technology needs a powerful vacuum and zero-G conditions in order to function. Gialich said that it won’t entail touching down on an asteroid because Astroforge is aiming for objects with a diameter of 20 meters to 1.5 kilometers, some of which won’t even have gravitational fields.
Even if they are rare, there are a few more hints about the company’s future ambitions. They appear to be aiming for a very modest operation, perhaps with a payload around 200 kilos, to benefit from reasonably priced rideshare launches to geosynchronous and lunar destinations. Additionally, rather than pursuing asteroids rich in water, helium, or other minerals, they are pursuing asteroids rich in the six platinum-group metals, such as platinum and iridium. It’s a big goal, and Astroforge is moving quickly. Astroforge has also secured a slot on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare flight. The business has already secured a cooperation with OrbAstro to produce the first satellite for the demo mission.
Additionally, it has located many potential asteroids that have the right orbit and content of platinum-group metals. The business is interested in slightly under a million of the 10 million near-Earth objects, Gialich added, so there will be no shortage of asteroids to pursue. A few businesses, including those funded by Larry Page like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, have made attempts to dominate asteroid mining, investing (and losing) millions of dollars apiece.
Astroforge intends to succeed where similar endeavors have failed, even though there are significant risks involved and a lengthy time frame for a return on investment. According to Gialich, “from an investor perspective, you’ve seen a lot of interest in space and deep technology, and space and deep tech generally just demand longer timescales.” “Since we don’t provide B2B SaaS, we won’t turn a profit in a year. […] This is such a large possibility that investors are ready to stake their bet on a longer time horizon when you consider that the opportunity here is to mine the universe.
Acain and Gialich, two space industry veterans with prior employment at SpaceX, NASA, and Virgin Orbit, formed the startup in January. The firm now employs four full-time employees, but seven additional roles are being aggressively recruited for. It’s an extremely difficult subject to solve, so we now need to assemble a world-class team to pursue it, Gialich added. Then he said, “That’s the exciting part of startups, right? Until you take the chance, it’s a tremendous risk.