A revolution is upon us, with the ability of new advanced electronic ion propulsion systems to permit cubesat architecture to escape the gravity of Earth, the solar system is opened to a new class of business. This represents, in my opinion, the future of the commercial space industry, with inexpensive access to space, and the ability to control the trajectory and mission profile of a deep space cubesat, asteroid mining becomes feasible on a more realistic scale than what would otherwise be required by the larger concepts like the NASA Asteroid Return Mission.
Instead of manufacturing cubesats on the ground, SWB will be assembling them in orbit with microthrusters that can achieve Earth escape enabling a whole new economy for asteroid mining and space exploration. Currently, cubesats are bulky, mostly metal framed squares required to survive launch stress, resulting in less onboard equipment. But, if you do not need to survive launch stress, you can design delicate, incredibly powerful new type of system with optics, processors, sensors, radiators, solar panels, and optimal sun facing and night facing components, completely different than the traditionally considered “cubic” cubesat approach, and instead a work of art, incredibly more capable and powerful than their predecessors.
By scaling the mission using cubesat design aesthetics, companies can decentralize and diversify their fleets of spaceships, which will result in mitigating the inherent risks associated with commercial deep space projects. I believe this will usher society into a new era, where lean-funded commercial space startup companies in the U.S. can inexpensively engage in the capital formation required for support and command a fleet of small robotic asteroid mining spaceships.
In Space Workbench, I have envisioned the optimal and preferred embodiment of this system, creating an end-to-end business plan for terrestrial mining companies, using a proprietary mission architecture which results in the landing and delivery of rare asteroid material containing precious minerals, to Earth, and their industrial recovery and transportation directly to the customers.
This entirely newly created market concept will permit the concept of commodities, and therefore the concept of futures trading to further mitigate risk and promote the incentive for capital formation and capital liquidity in these future markets.
I believe this will also help mitigate the pressing issue of precious metal resource production decline, due to the finite surface resources and increasing costs for exploration and advanced mining techniques.