THE world's first fleet of asteroid-prospecting spacecraft has been unveiled by a new US company with the hope of extracting valuable metals.
From 2015 a fleet of "FireFly" spacecraft, weighing just 55lb each, will whizz into space to explore any passing asteroids for signs of useful materials such as industrial metals, platinum-like metals, water and silicon.
Within a decade Deep Space Industries, the company behind the project, hopes to be able to harvest passing asteroids for metals and other building materials for use in space projects such as building communications platforms and solar power arrays.
It will also seek out rarer and more valuable metals for sale on Earth, for example in pollution control technology, and water and fuel which could be used in interplanetary space flight, bosses announced in a press conference in California on Tuesday.
Initially the fleet of FireFlies will be directed to examine suitable candidate asteroids as they fly past Earth, hitching a lift into orbit with communication satellites to save on energy and costs.
From 2016, larger "DragonFly" craft weighing 70lb will be tasked with collecting samples from suitable asteroids and returning them to Earth for analysis by scientists.
Nick Collins Telegraph.co.uk