小惑星鉱物資源開発のPlanetary Resourcesが採掘船打ち上げでVirgin Galacticと契約

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P2Pストレージサービスを準備中のSpace Monkey、Google Venturesなどから225万ドルの資金を調達

Screen Shot 2012-07-11 at 6.26.39 PM

小惑星の鉱物資源の採掘で起業したいとお考えのあなたに、絶好のお友だちができた。

小惑星資源開発のPlanetary Resourcesが、私企業として宇宙航行を提供するVirgin Galacticと契約して、同社のLauncherOneを使えることは、たいへん有意義だ。LauncherOneは、衛星打ち上げを他社他機関よりも安く効率的に行うために特別に設計された“乗り物”である。

Planetary Resourcesは小惑星採掘用宇宙船“Arkyd”を打ち上げるために、LauncherOneの打ち上げ機能を利用する。まあ開発対象は、地球になるべく近い小惑星だけど。

ふつうなら激しく競争しそうな二社が、今回チームを組むことになったのは、なかなかおもしろい。宇宙の研究開発はこれまで、政府の支援と納税者のお金数百万ドルを必要とした。それを今回は、私企業が協力の必要性を自覚したのだから、エライ。宇宙で見つけた文字通りの掘り出し物を、お互いどれぐらい気前よく分かち合うのか、それはまだ分からないが。

いずれにしても、宇宙産業の大衆化が始まるのは、すてきですよ。だから、注目しましょう。

以下は、Planetary ResourcesとVirgin Galacticの契約を発表しているプレスリリースだ:

[プレスリリースは英文ママ]

Bellevue, Wash. – July 11, 2012 – Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today an agreement with Virgin Galactic, LLC that will enable multiple launch opportunities for its series of spacecraft, including the Arkyd-100 low-Earth orbit (LEO) space telescopes.

Continuous, low-cost launch services for small spacecraft to LEO assists in accelerating Planetary Resources’ vision to make valuable space resources from Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) available to humanity. “While the Arkyd spacecraft line itself radically reduces the traditional cost of exploring the NEAs, the less expensive the cost to launch an Arkyd spacecraft to LEO, the more spacecraft the company will launch. The more spacecraft that the company launches, the faster it will create a future where access to asteroid resources results in a vast network of propellant depots throughout space and a future where once precious and rare materials are abundant for all. This will enable humanity’s prosperity to continue for centuries to come,” said Eric Anderson, Co-Founder & Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc.

Of the nearly 10,000 known NEAs, there are more than 1,500 that are energetically as easy to reach as the Moon. In the next few years, constellations of Arkyd-100 Series space telescopes will help fulfill the company’s early objective of identifying additional energetically-optimal, highly-valuable NEAs which will then be added to the detailed list of the company’s prospecting targets and pursued for future potential resource extraction.

“We are excited to announce this agreement with Virgin Galactic. LauncherOne has the potential to provide reliable and continuous launch service capability for small payloads. I expect Planetary Resources will launch several constellations of Arkyd-100 Series spacecraft in the coming years aboard LauncherOne,” said Mr. Anderson.

“We are developing the LauncherOne to deliver small satellites to LEO in a reliable fashion, with the capability to fly dozens of times per year. LauncherOne leverages our work in the area of commercial human spaceflight, and will provide reliable, regular launch opportunities to enable Planetary Resources to explore and develop valuable resources from asteroids,” said George Whitesides, President and CEO of Virgin Galactic, LLC.

Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer of Planetary Resources, Inc., noted that “As Planetary Resources works to expand humanity’s resource base, we also plan to increase scientific and commercial access to the Earth and deep space by developing capable and cost-efficient spacecraft. Interest in using our Arkyd-100 Series for commercial purposes – in addition to finding asteroids – has been very strong.”

[原文へ]
(翻訳:iwatani(a.k.a. hiwa))