DSI is one of the major companies making progress toward asteroid mining. They are volunteering with Enterprise In Space to curate this Center for Excellence, and working with EIS to do conceptual design of systems that might be used aboard the NSS Enterprise spacecraft.
The four phases of DSI's plan, from their website, are as follows:
Using tiny scouts to locate and evaluate space resources.
Deep Space Industries will soon launch its first prospecting missions, using advanced, small spacecraft — like Prospector-1™ — to explore and study Near Earth Asteroids. These prospecting spacecraft will be fitted with sophisticated scientific equipment to help them find water, metals, silicates, and more.
Using robotic spacecraft to extract and transport resources.
After prospecting missions have identified the best locations for mining, Deep Space Industries will send specialized robotic spacecraft to begin harvesting resources such as water. Using the company’s next generation Comet water thruster, water extracted from the target asteroid can also be used as propellant for the return trip.
Separating resources into usable materials.
Once asteroid materials are returned to near-Earth space, they can then be processed into fuel, drinking water, and building supplies. Harvesting spacecraft will unload their cargo to a processing complex that begins the detailed separation and evolution of materials, getting them ready for manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing in micro-gravity.
Manufacturing in micro-gravity and hard vacuum offers both opportunities and challenges. The upside of making things in space includes the ability to create very large structures that would never fit into the confines of a launch vehicle’s payload fairing. Huge solar arrays to produce energy and enormous antenna to enhance communications satellites are among the possibilities.
DSI is not only interested in space mining, but in providing improved flight hardware for satellites, including its own. DSI has developed a new thruster that uses water as a propellant called the Comet. DSI says, "It is intrinsically inert, launch safe, and cost-effective. This low-power, low-profile, high total impulse micro-propulsion system is CubeSat-compatible but incorporates a highly-flexible interface suitable for a wide range of spacecraft sizes. If successful, this has the potential to be very useful as DSI plans to mine water from asteroids, thus ensuring a quick, cheap, and effective fuel source."
A two-camera optical navigation system enables proximity operations at asteroids or at close range to other targets. This vision system is developed jointly between Deep Space Industries and University of Luxembourg’s* Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability, and Trust (SnT).
Deep Space Avionics
Modular, scalable, and intrinsically radiation-tolerant avionics combine the best of commercial technologies with rigorous screening and innovative design approaches to enable cost-effective, yet radiation-robust subsystems for deep space.