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$13M for Surf City Asteroid Mining Startup

AstroForge Says Test Flight Possible Next Year

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Many people think of asteroids as huge space boulders that one day may crash into Earth.
The newly unveiled company AstroForge in Huntington Beach sees things much differently; it’s raised $13 million to mine asteroids for platinum and other valuable resources.

Matthew Gialich, the co-founder and CEO of AstroForge, said on his LinkedIn site late last month: “Excited to announce our seed round, led by Initialized Capital with follow-on from 776 Capital, Earthrise Aera VC.”

Co-founder Jose Acain is the chief technology officer of the company backed by well-known tech startup accelerator Y Combinator, the Cambridge, Mass.-based backer of firms like Airbnb, Coinbase and DoorDash.

2 Missions Funded

While Hollywood’s take on asteroids includes Bruce Willis saving the world from impact in the 1998 thriller “Armageddon,” AstroForge, which just came out of stealth mode, sees things in a much more commercial light.

AstroForge wants to become the first to mine an asteroid and bring the material back to Earth—and it’s aiming to do so as early as the end of the decade.

News site TechCrunch, which broke the news of the funding, said the seed money will fund AstroForge through its first two missions, including an initial demonstration flight that’s scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission next year.

Virgin Galactic, Terran

AstroForge is the latest addition to Orange County’s array of space-oriented companies.
Space tourism company Virgin Galactic is headquartered in Tustin, while satellite companies Iceye US and Terran Orbital Corp. are also located here (see story, page 1).

AstroForge was formed early this year by Acain and Gialich, two veterans of the space industry.

“By the sounds of it, they are targeting a relatively lightweight operation, likely with a payload less than 200 kilograms to take advantage of affordable rideshare launches to geosynchronous and lunar trajectories,” TechCrunch said of AstroForge.

They’re also going after asteroids high in concentrations of the six platinum-group metals, including platinum and iridium, rather than water, helium or other minerals, the website said.

AstroForge has already lined up a partnership with OrbAstro to manufacture the first satellite for the demo mission, and AstroForge has also acquired a spot on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission, according to TechCrunch.

Competition

AstroForge intends to succeed where bigger companies have failed.

“A handful of companies—notably Larry Page-backed Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries—have attempted to conquer asteroid mining, and each invested (and lost) millions in the process,” according to TechCrunch. Page is the co-founder of Google.

And there will be no lack of asteroids to go after; of the 10 million near-Earth objects, the company is interested in just under a million of these, Gialich told the news site.

The company currently has four full-time employees, and it is advertising for five more, including test engineer and physicist.

AstroForge aims to mine platinum from asteroids by 2030 and send refineries to space, news site Axios said on May 26.

“If the company succeeds—and there are significant hurdles—it would unlock a near-limitless source of metals with far fewer environmental impacts,” according to Axios. “The startup plans to send unmanned mining and refining vessels to space, helping eliminate the pollution associated with earthbound mining operations.”

Kevin Costelloe
Kevin Costelloe
Tech reporter at Orange County Business Journal

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