Monday, November 05, 2018

Planetary Resources Purchased by US Based Blockchain Company

          By Brian Orlotti

Richmond WA based asteroid mining firm Planetary Resources has been purchased by ConsenSys Inc., a Brooklyn, New York-based blockchain software company. The acquisition could serve as an opportunity for the application of blockchain technology to commercial space activities and may also end up serving as a model for new fund raising and profit-taking strategies in the new space sector.

As outlined in the October 31st, 2018 Planetary Resources press release, "ConsenSys Acquires Planetary Resources," the full terms of the acquisition have not yet been publicly announced but both Planetary Resources’ President & CEO Chris Lewicki and General Counsel Brian Israel have joined ConsenSys and will continue to develop space initiatives out of the Planetary Resources’ former facility in Redmond WA.

Founded by Peter H. Diamandis, Eric C. Anderson and Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources debuted in 2012 with the stated goal of expanding Earth’s resource base by developing and deploying asteroid mining technologies.

In the short-term, however, the company sought to generate a revenue stream by marketing a series of small, inexpensive space telescopes for Earth observation and astronomy.  These spacecraft would employ a laser-based communications system to reduce payload mass as compared to conventional radio systems.

The deployment of these space telescopes was envisioned by the company as a first step towards asteroid mining; the capabilities that the company hoped to sell to its customers could also be used to survey and scrutinize near-Earth asteroids.

Earlier this year, as noted in the March 12, 2018 Space News post, "Planetary Resources revising plans after funding setback," Planetary Resources failed to close an anticipated round of funding. The company had planned on receiving investment from an unnamed “major global mining company,” but the funding was “delayed” due to budgetary reasons.

Layoffs ensued, and the company's first asteroid prospecting mission, scheduled to launch in 2020, was delayed indefinitely.

Planetary Resources had successfully launched two test satellites into orbit: Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) in July 2015 and Arkyd 6 in January 2018.

ConsenSys, founded in 2015 by Canadian entrepreneur Joseph Lublin, is a software company developing decentralized software services and applications that utilize the Ethereum blockchain. A Blockchain is a decentralised and public ledger of transactions shared via computer networks (i.e. the Internet) with each transaction linked to previous ones by cryptographic hashes.

This use of cryptography ensures the authenticity and integrity of the ledger, making it supposedly immune to fraud. Blockchains are used extensively by cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The global banking and financial industries are currently investigating blockchain for use in their operations. 

As of July 2018, ConsenSys has over 900 employees. The company’s projects include:
  • Meridio - a platform to create, manage, and trade fractional ownership shares in real estate assets.
  • Blockapps Strato - a partnership with Microsoft Azure to build industry-specific blockchain database applications.
  • TransActive Grid - a joint venture with Brooklyn, NY based LO3 Energy to enable peer-to-peer electricity sales.
  • MineraC -  a consortium of mining companies and financial institutions working to create a blockchain system for minerals trading and logistics.

ConsensSys’ purchase of Planetary Resources may be a part of a two-step strategy. First, revenue from blockchain products may enable the development of asteroid mining technologies. Second, the emergence of an asteroid mining industry would provide a ready-made market for MineraC’s mining logistics platform.

When combining an old idea (asteroid mining) with a new one (blockchain), the results can be anything but predictable. But with the chance to finally achieve the dream of an off-world economy, it’s a gamble worth taking.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

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