Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today that it has secured US$21.1 million in Series A funding. The capital will be used to deploy and operate Ceres, an advanced Earth observation business that features the first commercial infrared and hyperspectral sensor platform to better understand and manage humanity’s natural resources. The funding was led by Bryan Johnson and the OS FUND; and joined by Idea Bulb Ventures; Tencent; Vast Ventures; Grishin Robotics; Conversion Capital; The Seraph Group; Space Angels Network, a syndication of investors from Angel.co; and Larry Page. Earth observation will be another aspect of Planetary Resources’ operations in addition to prospecting and mining asteroids.
Conceived from the company’s vision for the exploration and utilization of asteroid resources, Ceres will leverage Planetary Resources’ Arkyd spacecraft to deliver affordable, on-demand Earth intelligence of our natural resources on any spot on the planet. While typical satellite imagery provides only a picture, Ceres will provide actionable data with higher spectral resolutions – going beyond what the human eye can see – by measuring thermographic properties and detecting the composition of materials on Earth’s surface. The midwave-infrared sensor is the first ever commercial capability from space to offer thermographic mapping and night-imaging, and the hyperspectral sensor includes an unprecedented 40 color bands in the visible to near-infrared spectrum.
The imaging technology is integrated onto the Arkyd spacecraft and deployed as a constellation of 10 satellites in low-Earth orbit. The constellation will provide global monitoring capability to benefit multiple industries including agriculture, oil & gas, water quality, financial intelligence and forestry. Ceres can analyze the spectral signatures of crops and provide customized information to growers, identify energy and mineral resources, and monitor pipelines and remote infrastructure. The system can also track toxic algae blooms, monitor global water quality and enable the detection of wildfires in their earliest stages.
The most capable, low-cost small satellites ever deployed into Earth orbit.
More Capabilities, Less Cost Using only 10 micro-satellites, the Ceres constellation provides weekly data for any location on Earth at a lower cost than legacy multispectral data.
Planetary Resources is deploying a constellation of Arkyd 100 spacecraft in low-Earth orbit to deliver valuable information-rich data to markets today. With just 10 satellites, the Ceres constellation provides weekly hyperspectral and mid-wave infrared data for any spot on Earth at a lower cost than existing multispectral data. Furthermore, leveraging its revolutionary on-board processing power, the Ceres constellation can also be programmed on-board to search for and identify specific materials or temperature signatures – a capability that does not exist from satellites or drones today. Our system is also highly-intelligent and customizable. Ceres can send complete hyperspectral data cubes if required or can return specifically requested wavelengths, temperatures, or even simplified algorithmic “answers” about a target.
In bringing new capabilities to the market Ceres features:
- Twice-daily revisit rates, daytime and nighttime
- Weekly monitoring service level agreements
- 10m Hyperspectral and 15m Midwave Infrared resolution
- Global coverage
- Sensor re-configurability on-orbit
Planetary Resources is currently testing Ceres’ sensor platform and will demonstrate the technology in space with an upcoming scheduled launch of the company’s Arkyd 6 spacecraft onboard a Space X Falcon 9 rocket. The mission will validate the thermographic sensor and supporting technologies for the Arkyd series of spacecraft.
“As we continue toward our vision of the expansion of humanity and our economy into the Solar System, our team has been working on the critical technologies required to detect and identify the most commercially viable near-Earth asteroids and their resources,” said Chris Lewicki, President and CEO, Planetary Resources, Inc. “To characterize these resources, it required more than just a picture, and our team has developed advanced spectral sensors to serve this need. We have also created new technologies for onboard computing, low-cost space platforms, and are now applying these transformative technologies in additional markets.”
Bryan Johnson, Founder of OS Fund and Board of Director member at Planetary Resources, Inc., said, “With Ceres, Planetary Resources has leapfrogged traditional imagers for monitoring Earth’s natural resources, creating far-ranging opportunity. It’s a seismic shift for the new space economy.”
James Crawford, Ph.D., Founder and CEO, Orbital Insight, Inc. said, “When Planetary Resources’ Ceres constellation is complete, it will transform the ability to monitor, model and manage global commodities and provide visibility across all major industrial supply chains.”
Liam Condon, CEO, Bayer CropScience said, “The highly innovative and cost-effective technology Planetary Resources is deploying has the potential to transform activities that were once confined to the laboratory into everyday use, as growers increasingly rely on data-driven tools and new technologies to inform their business decisions.”
Jim Hollis, CEO, Neos GeoSolutions said, “We are very excited about Planetary Resources’ new infrared and hyperspectral imagery system. This promises to be a powerful new component to our energy exploration system.”
Agriculture applications for Ceres Satellites
Reduce input costs, maximize yields and support sustainable practices with affordable, high-value crop intelligence designed specifically for increasingly digital global agriculture. Potential applications include:
- Weekly decision support data throughout the growing season
- Thermal crop scouting with automated problem detection
- Relative soil moisture index
- Crop and growth stage identification
- Detailed crop-specific health indices and yield prediction inputs
- Evapotranspiration reporting
- Day/night soil and canopy temperature mapping
Enable field agents with automated space-based crop reporting to reduce operating costs and maximize profits, including:
- Low-cost automated crop and growth stage identification by acre
- Estimated planting dates
- Weekly field health assessments
- Claim confirmation support anywhere on the planet, with minimal delay after incident
Oil and Gas Applications for Ceres Satellites
Reduce the cost of large area oil and gas exploration surveys with advanced infrared and hyperspectral
imagery offered at a fraction of the cost of airborne or ground surveys.
- Infrared sensors offer advanced thermography capabilities day or night
- Detailed surface temperature mapping and delta-temperature index
- Thermal inertia measurements available anywhere on the planet
- Hyperspectral system maps vegetative stress resulting from hydrocarbons
Low-cost global monitoring of liquid pipelines reduces product losses, increases regulatory
compliance, and improves response times in the event of a leak, rupture, or encroachment.
- Infrared sensors use day-night imaging pairs to map thermal inertia
- Enables monitoring of above-ground and buried liquid pipelines
- Change detection algorithms are applied to identify anomalies indicative of leaks
- Hyperspectral sensors further confirm the leak via vegetation stressed by hydrocarbon activity
- Thermal monitoring for encroachment by third parties