Asteroid Mining Stocks: Can You Invest in Asteroid Mining?
As SpaceX and Blue Origin remind us of the possibilities of space exploration, investors are looking into adjacent opportunities. One is mining nearby asteroids and space objects for the natural resources we may be running out of on Earth. Is there a way to invest in companies trying to make asteroid mining a reality?
David Dierking Updated May 9th, 2022
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What is asteroid mining?
Like mining for minerals, metals, and natural resources here on Earth, asteroid mining does essentially the same thing but in space. It involves landing a spacecraft on a near-Earth object and either hauling the object back to Earth to be mined or processing it at a non-Earth site, such as the moon.
If this sounds like science fiction, it is for now. Several companies have launched with the intent of developing the technology for successfully mining an asteroid. At this point, asteroid mining is still in the development stages. No companies are (of yet) capable of launching and landing a spacecraft to mine an asteroid.
How does one successfully mine an asteroid? We need to answer the following questions first:
- How can we detect whether the asteroid contains metals, minerals, or water?
- How do we land a spacecraft on the asteroid in the proper location for mining?
- How do we properly extract the resources from the asteroid?
- Where and how do we process the resources acquired?
- Will a huge jump in the supply of a resource from a successful mission crater its current value? Will that make asteroid mining less financially viable?
From an environmental perspective, asteroid mining can be viewed as eco-friendly. If critical “green metals” like nickel, lithium, or cobalt can be mined in space and transported back to Earth, that would significantly cut down the damage done by mining on Earth. Besides exhausting finite natural resources, mining processes can pollute rivers and lakes, release greenhouse gas emissions and create health risks for humans.
Is asteroid mining profitable?
It could be in the future, but certainly not today. Asteroid mining is incredibly capital-intensive and requires huge upfront costs, maybe in the billions of dollars, to even get a mission off the ground. Any attempt at launching an asteroid mining venture may not see a return on investment for years, if not decades – if it achieves one at all.
What companies do asteroid mining?
A few companies are trying to make asteroid mining viable, but some have attempted and already failed.
Planetary Resources was the most high-profile venture, having raised $50 million from investors, who included filmmaker James Cameron and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The venture even managed to get a satellite into orbit, but progress must have been too slow to raise more money. In 2018, Planetary Resources was bought by a blockchain company; its assets were eventually sold off.
Deep Space Industries launched in 2013 but received much less investor interest. In its later years, it pivoted to small satellites and propulsion technology. Bradford Space bought it in 2019.
Despite the problems encountered by Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, other companies are still pursuing asteroid mining and new ventures are launching. Here are some of them.
iSpace is a privately-held Japanese company that manufactures robotic lunar landers and rovers. It wants to use these technologies to identify and harvest water on the moon. The company is currently planning on putting its first lunar lander on the moon by the end of 2022. Its second lunar mission is expected to launch in 2024, along with several other future missions as part of its project, Hakuto-R.
Offworld is developing a lineup of universal industrial robots that can be used on Earth, Mars, the moon, and asteroids. Once it successfully gets its robots to operate in these hostile environments, Offworld plans to develop a robotic self-replication capability using local resources and eventually build the first off-world computer chips and close the robotic self-replication loop.
Asteroid Mining Corporation (AMC)
AMC aims to develop small satellites that can extract minerals from asteroids. According to their plan, the company’s Asteroid Prospecting Satellite I will scan asteroids for their mineral content potential. Next, they will send an Asteroid Exploration Probe to the most promising asteroids. Those probes will take samples to verify their mineral potential. The final step would be for AMC’s Asteroid Mining Probe I to mine for the minerals.
TransAstra produces the satellites and technology needed to explore and eventually mine asteroids. It plans to launch its first satellite into orbit in 2023. If successful, TransAstra will follow up with the launch of several more. TransAstra also wants to act as a “space tug,” which involves taking other satellites and using its proprietary technology to place them exactly where they need to be.
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Are there any publicly traded asteroid mining companies?
None of the companies mentioned above are publicly traded, though TransAstra may accept investments from accredited U.S. individual investors. To be accredited, you generally need to earn at least $200,000 a year for two years (and expect the same this year), or your net worth, excluding your primary home, must exceed $1 million.
How do I invest in asteroid mining?
Investing in asteroid mining is not for the faint of heart. More adventurous – and accredited – investors can look into space-focused venture funds. There is even a new space-focused crowdfunding platform that is open to non-accredited investors. Others can invest in space generally through exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which are liquid and traded on exchanges like stocks, making it easy to get in and out. However, with ETFs, the closest you get to asteroid mining is investing in space exploration broadly.
Spaced Ventures describes itself as “our planet’s first public space investment portal.” It’s a new crowdfunding platform that lets retail investors buy stakes in space-focused startups. Infinite Composites, one of the companies that raised through the platform, required just a $100 investment. Because the platform just launched, it remains to be seen what investments they will offer.
Space Angels is an established investing platform that provides space-related deal flow to accredited investors. Their portfolio includes companies like Lunar Outpost, which is developing rovers and explorers for use on the moon and Mars.
ARK Space Exploration & Innovation ETF (ARKX)
One of Cathie Wood’s newest funds, ARKX, invests in space technology companies. Those technologies include artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, materials, energy storage, GPS, and drones. This fund is not focused on asteroid mining, but it’s a way to invest in satellites and supporting technologies.
Top holdings include Trimble, Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, and AeroVironment. 57% of the ETF is allocated to industrial stocks, while another 23% goes towards tech companies.
Procure Space ETF (UFO)
Like ARKX, UFO owns a portfolio of companies in space-related industries. Among the technologies it invests in are satellite manufacturing, rocket systems, satellite-based telecommunications, radio broadcasting, imagery, intelligence services, hardware, and ground equipment.
UFO takes a little bit of a different approach to building its portfolio. Half of the fund invests in media & communication stocks. Top holdings include Virgin Galactic, Maxar Technologies, and SES.
While UFO can’t invest in asteroid miners today because none of them are publicly traded, the fund’s site notes that other space-related industries may emerge in the future, including “space resource exploration and extraction.”
If you are interested in asteroid mining, you may need to settle for investing in space and space exploration. You have more options if you are an accredited investor; otherwise, space-themed ETFs are the way to go.
🔔 Looking to learn about other groundbreaking technologies? Learn how nuclear fusion can accelerate the transition to clean energy.
NOT INVESTMENT ADVICE. The content is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as investment advice.