Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, has announced an agreement with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic's "LauncherOne" (above) to provide launch capability for the Arkyd series of robotic low-Earth orbit (LEO) space telescopes for the exploration and commercial development of Near-Earth Asteroids. LauncherOne uses the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft to launch an orbital booster which delivers about 225 Kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). That's enough payload to launch about 8 Arkyd-100 satellites.

"While the Arkyd spacecraft line itself radically reduces the traditional cost of exploring the NEAs, the less expensive the cost to launch an Arkyd spacecraft to LEO, the more spacecraft the company will launch. The more spacecraft that the company launches, the faster it will create a future where access to asteroid resources results in a vast network of propellant depots throughout space and a future where once precious and rare materials are abundant for all. This will enable humanity's prosperity to continue for centuries to come," said Eric Anderson, Co-Founder & Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc.

Of the nearly 10,000 known NEAs, there are more than 1,500 that are energetically as easy to reach as the Moon. In the next few years, constellations of Arkyd-100 Series space telescopes will help fulfill the company's early objective of identifying additional energetically-optimal, highly-valuable NEAs which will then be added to the detailed list of the company's prospecting targets and pursued for future potential resource extraction.

Virgin Galactic, headquartered in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is best known for its plans to ferry paying tourists to the edge of space. The "LauncherOne" is an unmanned rocket will be air-launched by SpaceShipTwo's carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, will be capable of delivering as much as 225 kg to low Earth Orbit.

"We are developing the LauncherOne to deliver small satellites to LEO in a reliable fashion, with the capability to fly dozens of times per year. LauncherOne leverages our work in the area of commercial human spaceflight, and will provide reliable, regular launch opportunities to enable Planetary Resources to explore and develop valuable resources from asteroids," said George Whitesides, President and CEO of Virgin Galactic.

"As Planetary Resources works to expand humanity's resource base, we also plan to increase scientific and commercial access to the Earth and deep space by developing capable and cost-efficient spacecraft. Interest in using our Arkyd-100 Series for commercial purposes - in addition to finding asteroids - has been very strong," added Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer of Planetary Resources, Inc.

Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, was founded in 2009 by Eric Anderson and Peter H. Diamandis, to establish a new paradigm for resource utilization that will bring the solar system within humanity's economic sphere of influence.

Planetary Resources is financed by industry-launching visionaries, three of whom include Google's CEO Larry Page & Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Ross Perot, Jr., Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group, who are committed to expanding the world's resource base so that humanity can continue to grow and prosper.

Some of the company's advisors include film maker and explorer James Cameron and Sara Seager, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT.