In May, asteroid mining firm Planetary Resources announced its crowdfunding campaign for one of its Arkyd 100 telescope satellites that backers would be allowed to use for a bit of private space exploration. Having reached over US$860,000 of its $1 million goal on Wednesday, Planetary Resources is upping the ante by offering to upgrade the satellite for exoplanet hunting if pledges reach $2 million before the campaign ends on May 30.
Planetary Resources says that it wants to help fill the gap left by the recent failure of NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, which went out of commission in May after a gyro failure. If the $2 million mark is met, Planetary Resources will team with MIT exoplanet researchers and enhance an Arkyd’s stability systems, so it will be suitable for exoplanet work.
Then satellite time will be dedicated to monitoring candidate star systems for transiting exoplanets, which involves recording the dip in a star’s light intensity as a planet passes in front of it, or studying gravity microlensing, which uses the distortion of light caused by the mass of a star and its planets to detect the latter.