By September 13, 2019 Read More →

Space mining market expected to reach US$2.84bn by 2023

A new report forecasts that the global space mining market will grow from $0.65bn in 2018 to $2.4bn by 2023, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.6%.

Yet this is still an industry that is very much at the earliest stages of development: a Caltech study put the cost of an asteroid mining mission at $2.6bn, showing how far the market will still need to develop even if it continues at the expected pace of growth through to 2023. The cost is more than double  the typical $1bn set-up costs of a terrestrial rare-earth-metal mine, but the attraction is evidenced by the fact that a football-field-sized asteroid could, it is reckoned, contain as much as $50bn of platinium.

The space mining market for the spacecraft design phase is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. And mining of Type M asteroids (metallic asteroids made of raw metals such as platinum group metals) is also expected to see high CAGR in the forecast period.

Mining in space could open up a new frontier in space exploration by giving astronauts the resources they need for long periods in space, whether on the Moon, Mars or asteroids.

A recent project at the University of Edinburgh has seen scientists develop 18 matchbox sized prototype biomining reactors to test how low gravity affects the ability of bacteria to extract materials such as iron, calcium and magnesium from space rocks. These ‘kits’ will now be tested aboard the International Space Station.

Fundamental insights

Professor Charles Cockell, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who is leading the project, said: “This experiment will give us new fundamental insights into the behaviour of microbes in space, their applications in space exploration and how they might be used more effectively on Earth in all the myriad way that microbes affect our lives.”

The ‘BioRock’ experiment is led by the University of Edinburgh, with the European Space Agency and the UK Space Agency, and is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, part of UKRI.

It is noteworthy that the BioRock experiment is the second UK-led experiment to take place on the International Space Station, after the ‘Worms in Space’ experiment launched in December 2018, and involves researchers from across Europe, including Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.

The experiment will also study how microbes grow and form layers – known as biofilms – on natural surfaces in space. The findings could have numerous applications on Earth, including the recovery of metals from ores and the use of biofilms in industry and medicine.

Leading players in the space mining market have been identified as Asteroid Mining Corporation, Bradford Space Group, China National Space Administration, Deep Space Industries (DSI), ESA, Ispace, Jaxa, Kleos Space, Moon Express, NASA, Offworld, Planetary Resources, Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Shackleton Energy Company (SEC), SpacefabUs and Transastra

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