Asteroid mining startup founded by ex-SpaceX and Virgin Orbit engineers books first test mission with SpaceX

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Asteroid mining startup founded by ex-SpaceX and Virgin Orbit engineers books first test mission with SpaceX
SpaceX launched 49 Starlink satellites Thursday.Paul Hennessy/Getty Images
  • Startup AstroForge has booked its first test mission with SpaceX.
  • It aims to gather valuable rare minerals in space and bring them back to Earth.
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A new asteroid mining company has booked its first test mission with SpaceX.

AstroForge plans to mine asteroids by breaking them up and returning valuable materials to Earth. It was cofounded by former SpaceX engineer Jose Acain and ex-Virgin Orbit and Galactic engineer Matt Gialich.

It is scheduled to test its technology in orbit next year, using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch.

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Asteroid mining has long been tipped as a lucrative industry, but it is yet to become commercially viable.

The company will start with platinum group metals, which are used in everything from catalytic converters in cars to electronics. "A very worthwhile metal to have, but they're very limited," said Gialich, who is CEO, on a LinkedIn video.

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Metallic asteroids contain mostly iron and nickel, but some also have platinum, gold, and cobalt.

The shift to a green economy has seen demand for some metals soar. Cobalt, for example, is primarily used in lithium-ion batteries found in electric vehicles.

"We are continuously mining the Earth for all of its resources, not just platinum but everything. We see this damage cross the board. I mean, on the electric vehicle side, we have a huge lithium problem right now. We're making these hugely destructive mines ... there's economic problems [and] there's social problems caused by them. Overall, they're just not a good thing," Gialich said.

"We have all of these resources in space flying around us at high concentrations."

The startup, founded in January, is backed by the prestigious accelerator Y Combinator, which has helped ventures including Reddit, Airbnb and Stripe.

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AstroForge recently raised $13 million in seed funding from venture capital firm Initialized Capital.

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