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When will space mining be profitable?

Question

There are many resources in space that are of substantial value in terrestrial markets. For example, asteroid database Asterank lists hundreds of asteroids with estimated values of over 100 trillion USD each, based on their composition (which typically includes metals such as nickel, iron, and cobalt, as well as other compounds such as water or hydrogen which could be sold as fuel). Other asteroids contain rare metals such as platinum, although presumably mining such asteroids in quantity would flood the market with such metals and potentially reduce their value. Other sites may have resources as well; for example, the Moon contains large quantities of Helium-3, a potential nuclear fusion fuel.

This being the case, it would seem that there is a substantial opportunity to mine metals or other products in space, provided that it can be done cheaply enough.

When will a space mining company report a profit?

  • Space mining will be defined as capturing any material from an astronomical object with a distance of greater than 100 km above Earth's surface and selling it to a third party. Thus one can mine from asteroids, planets, moons, etc. Redirecting asteroids to Earth and mining them on the ground counts, as does mining material in space for use in space (e.g. hydrogen fuel).
  • The question resolves when a credible media report indicates that some space mining company had a profit over a period of at least three months (e.g. a quarterly earnings report), and this profit is primarily earned through actual mining operations, not e.g. NASA research studies.
  • If the space mining constitutes only a small part of a larger organization, as long as it is clear that the space mining arm's revenues exceeded its expenses, it can still qualify.
  • In general, if there is an event that is unclear (e.g. difficult to separate mining costs/revenues, or accounting irregularities), admins should lean towards waiting for an unambiguous triggering event and resolving positive at that time, rather than resolving ambiguous.

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