Asteroid Resource Projects Planning & Services Pty Ltd (ARPPS)

Chairman:            Mark J Sonter MAppSc, MSc(Hons)

Co-Directors:        Mark Sonter & Jim Hondros

Phone:                 Mark +61 447 755 598;   Jim +61 439 348 922

Asteroid Resource Projects Planning & Services Pty Ltd(ARPPS )is a recently-established Australian startup which seeks to advance the planning and development of in-space resources from the Moon, Mars, the moons of Mars, and the Near-Earth Asteroids, for the supply of propellants and construction materials to future markets in orbit, thus by passing the ‘Earth-launch bottlenecks’ and enabling the development and growth of future large-scale in-space markets and activities

Economic access to in-space resources is essential to enable the unconstrained expansion of a self-sustaining in-space econosphere, and thus catalyze the breakout of Humanity into the solar system

The early-stage game plan for ARPPS is to establish our presence as a consultancy service for development and assessment of space resources projects.

In parallel, however, we are pursuing our longer term plan to develop as an active space mining entity, by developing on our own account a ‘pipeline’ of resource projects. This is under way, and at an appropriate stage of maturation these projects will be made available for negotiation of farm-inor Joint Venture partnering arrangements, providing tranches of equity in return for financial support through various sequential stages of project development, with ARPPS intending to retain a residual equity and as the operational entity

As indicated in the name, our focus is on solar system ‘small bodies’, specifically the Near Earth Asteroids, plus additionally, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos. Note however, this small-bodies focus does not preclude our capability to advise on various differently-focused lunar mining and processing proposals, as our resource-project-development skill set also covers lunar resource concepts.

In terms of commodity targets, we are focused on water, from NEAs and from Deimos, for use directly as propellant, and as feed stock florin-space production of high-energy chemical biprop systems such as LOX /LH2, and HTP /hydrocarbons

The potential markets are of course, satellite orbit maintenance, collision avoidance, and end-of-life de-orbit, for the ever-expanding LEO fleets under construction; GEO sat emplacement and NSSK fuel; fuel for space tugs delivering to various orbits, and for Earth-Moon logistics; and in-orbit refuel for SpaceX Mars fleet departures. The potential in-space propellant market over the next ten years, if feasibility can be proven, is predicted to grow to several billion dollars per year. This is a revenue rate similar to the world annual demand for various ‘specialty elements’ such as cobalt, lithium, uranium, tantalum, graphite, rare earths, etc.

Space Projects Experience:

Although a new entity, ARPPS has via its senior founder (MJS) a long ‘space mining’ legacy, and has very significant asteroid mining concept-development subject-matter expertise:

  • First paper on asteroid resources, Aust. Space Engineering Conference, Sydney, 1986;
  • Setup of company Asteroid Enterprises Pty Ltd in that same year;
  • Thesis on The Technical & Economic Feasibility of Mining the Near Earth Asteroids(1995-98) starting with 4 months at U of Arizona with Prof John Lewis at Lunar & Planetary Lab;
  • Worked with Jim Benson on his Space Dev Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP) mission;
  • Comet matrix simulant work supported by FINDS grant, 1998-2000;
  • Engagement with the ‘Asteroid Mining Group’, 2011, which developed into:
  • Co-founding Deep Space Industries, with Rick Tumlinson, David Gump,Kirby Ikin,etal.,2012-2017,lead author ship of 300pp generic Asteroid Mining Concepts Development Study, involved in planning DSI X plorer asteroid probe; then:
  • Beyond Earth Resources Pty Ltd, a short-lived Aussie entity, in which context MJS and JH worked up a Concepts Study for an asteroid resource mission scoped to meet the ULA2016 Request for Proposals, for extraterrestrial supply of100 tpa water in LEO, from 2023, for their proposed ACES repurposed upper stage space tugs (note that this RfP is now ‘inactive’).

Our involvement in Deep Space Industries over a period of 6 years gave very significant insight, and ongoing contact with many ‘key players’.

Terrestrial Projects Experience:

Unlike most other would-be space miner start ups, our team does have extremely extensive senior hands-on mining industry experience. Between the two co-founders, we have advised on or been involved in the high level management of over 40 different resources projects, world wide, many from ‘ab initio’ initial greenfield exploration, concept development phase, through definition of mineral resource, initial project definition, scoping, and development, to permitting and commissioning, operation, and finally decommissioning, across multiple commodities and from small thru to very large projects.

Our industry experience spans oil & gas, base and precious metals, uranium, mineral sands and rare earths; and on the processing side, everything from oil & gas upstream processing, to large LNG plants, to mineral processing ranging from simple flotation concentrates to complex multi-product operations including solvent extraction, smelting, and electrolytic refining.

With our broader team, we cover geology, mining, and mineral processing/ chemical engineering. A senior member of the team is an accomplished robotics. In addition, we have long term space advocate and space bizdev expertise, and access to high level spacecraft engineering expertise

We thus bring a wealth of terrestrial resource industries experience in project planning, technical understanding, research, design, permitting, operation, and maintenance learnings

All of this experience is of significant and direct relevance to the ab-initio development of robust concepts for space resources access, processing, and utilisation.

We are presently working on a ‘minimum cost’ (< ca $30M) asteroid resource recovery ‘Proof-of-Concept and Mass Sample Return’ mission, and on design of our prototype miner mechanism. Potential mission targets have been identified.

A ‘pipeline’ of follow up early-stage minimal capex commercial asteroid resource recovery missions is also under development; these projects will at the appropriate time be offered for JV or farm-in partnering opportunities to mining and oil majors and other potential investors.

An interesting point not widely recognized, is the relative plentifulness of the subset of highly accessible Near-Earth asteroids. Of the 24,000 now known, a bit under 20% are energetically more accessible than the moon, and of these, about half are ‘big enough to be useful targets’, meaning approx. 100 m diameter. And of these, something like 10% offer intermittently good, low delta-v, low thrust return-to-Earth-orbit trajectories. That’s about 200 known potential targets.

And they are rich. About 50% of NEAs are S-type and thus analogous to ordinary chondrite (‘stony’) meteorites which contain ca 10% free nickel-iron metal (and ca 50 ppm PGMs, which become available as by-products of Mond-process metal extraction); and the other 50% are C-class (C-, D-, P-, G-, and B-Types) and thus analogous in part to carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, which contain overall ca 5% to 20% water in clays and salts, plus macromolecular carbon compounds, magnetite, and various ‘other volatiles’. The D- and P- types are suspected of being genetically related to comets and thus potentially even higher in volatiles content. These are all amazingly high proportions of ‘useful feedstock’ that may if extracted and returned, be worth hundreds to thousands of dollars per kg in various earth-orbit and cis-lunar space locations.

Following on from this, it is notable and extraordinary that asteroidal targets inherently show much higher probability for successful resource definition than do terrestrial ‘greenfield’ hard rock base metal/precious metal prospects at similar early stages of investigation.

Strategic Insights:

We believe that the strategic ‘learnings’ from the last century of resources development, the focus on economic viability, the disciplines associated with exploration and definition of mineral resource, and the project-definition and risk reduction processes of the project Scoping and Feasibility Studies sequence, are all directly applicable to the development of space resources.

We believe that the almost unique capabilities in resource project generation, definition, and development showcased by Australian leadership generally in resource project development worldwide (and our own background specifically, with our almost unique terrestrial resource projects background as well as the space resources studies background as referred to above) can be, and should be, applied in the development of space resources.

Mark Sonter, Chairman & Co-Director, ARPPS