Orbital ORB-3 Launch to Include Planetary Resources A3 Technology Demonstrator Spacecraft

©Planetary Resources

Planetary Resources A3 Technology Demonstrator Spacecraft.

Today's launch of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket with the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station will include the first hardware from commercial startup Planetary Resources.

Included in the Cygnus manifest is the Planetary Resources technology demonstrator A3 spacecraft dubbed the A3. Similar to a 3U CubeSat, it weighs 4 Kg (10 lbs) and is almost one-third the weight of an Arkyd-100. The spacecraft will be launched into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station using the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer.

In an online post on their website, Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer of Planetary Resources said "the A3 test flight will enable the Arkyd-100 Series to be the most advanced spacecraft per kilogram that has ever been built. The A3 is a sophisticated yet cost-effective means to test technologies supporting the follow-on Arkyd 100 missions in 2015."

The primary task of the A3 is to test avionics and control systems that will be used on the Arkyd 100.

"We believe that the best testbed for the Arkyd is space itself," said Chris Voorhees, Vice President of Spacecraft Development, Planetary Resources, Inc. "Deploying the A3 from the International Space Station provides an efficient and cost-effective way to test many of the new technologies that we've developed for its future asteroid prospecting platforms."

Preparing the A3 for its vibration test. Credit: Planetary Resources.

It was 2 1/2 years ago that Planetary Resources announced its intention to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA's) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals.

Editor's note: You can watch the launch of the ORB-3 mission live on SpaceRef starting at 5:45 p.m. ET. The launch is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. ET from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Pad 0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

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