"More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year. They can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century — a key resource located near where it was needed. In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century. That is our strategy."
While the FireFly, made from relatively low cost “CubeSat” components, might conjure up images of Joss Whedon’s freewheeling space western of the same name, DSI’s spacecraft are a mere 50 lbs and would theoretically piggyback on larger communications satellites to scout the cosmos for resource rich asteroids. Should a FireFly find asteroids ripe for mining, larger satellites called DragonFlies would be sent to collect samples to test their viability. Each DragonFly would be capable of transporting upwards of 330 lbs of raw material back to Earth, with missions projected to take 2-4 years to complete. DSI has set a target launch date for their FireFly prospecting spacecraft of 2015, with DragonFlies following in 2016.
DSI’s entry into the asteroid mining industry harkens back to Planetary Resources’s announcement in April of last year that the latter’s venture had received backing from a handful of well-known investors, including Academy Award winning director James Cameron. DSI is hoping to court its own big name investors like Google and Red Bull with its proof-of-concept FireFly design.
The company’s MicroGravity Foundry, a groundbreaking patent-pending 3D printer, would be the first of its kind to create “high-density, high-strength metal components even in zero gravity," according to the device’s inventor and DSI co-founder Stephen Covey. In addition to mining asteroids for metals and water, a process which DSI hopes will be in full swing by 2023, DSI has its eyes set on even loftier goals, like constructing solar power plants in space and developing commercially viable space colonies to support its business.