This company wants to start mining asteroids in 2015

Deep Space Industries
An artist's concept of a wheel habitat under construction at an asteroid, a vision of space settlement by the asteroid mining company Deep Space Industries.

One day, your new gadgets could have minerals from asteroids inside them. We've covered proposals to mine asteroids before, but a new company called Deep Space Industries (DSI) has come out of the shadows with an ambitious plan to begin prospecting for minable asteroids by 2015 .

By then, the company expects to send out a fleet of “FireFly” probes (no, not that one) to survey the small asteroids that pass by Earth. These FireFlies will be on the small side—with the mass of about 25 kg (55 pounds)—and sent on journeys of two to six months.

Deep Space Industries
An artist's concept of Deep Space Industries' Dragonfly spacecraft to capture and return asteroid samples for return to Earth orbit for mining operations.

In 2016, DSI plans to launch its larger 70-pound DragonFly spacecraft to bring back samples. These round-trip expeditions are expected to take between two to four years and return with 60 to 150 pounds of samples.

If getting back our first space mining samples by 2020 sounds like a lofty goal, DSI has even more ambitious plans: The company also wants to build a MicroGravity Foundry—think of it as a 3D printer in space. As far as we know, this foundry uses nickel-charged gas to print metal components in zero gravity.

DSI says that it can use the recovered material to help provide fuel and metals for current spacecraft. In the long run, however, it could help develop permanent bases to continuously mine asteroids for metals while building satellites and other spacecraft, sort of like a dry dock in space.

[Deep Space Industries via Kurzweilai]

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