Mining asteroids with AstroForge CEO Matthew Gialich | E1736 | Summary and Q&A

May 5, 2023
This Week in Startups
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Mining asteroids with AstroForge CEO Matthew Gialich | E1736


Astro Forge is using SpaceX's ride-sharing program to send vehicles into space and mine asteroids for rare metals, such as Platinum Group metals, which are used in various industrial applications. The company aims to address the limited resources on Earth and reduce the environmental impacts of mining.

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Key Insights

  • 👾 SpaceX's ride-sharing program has revolutionized the cost of space launches, enabling companies like Astro Forge to enter the space mining industry.
  • ⚾ The limited resources and environmental impact of Earth-based mining have created a market for asteroid mining.
  • ✋ Platinum Group metals, targeted by Astro Forge, have high value and are critical to various industries.
  • 👻 Astro Forge's process of vaporization and sorting allows for efficient extraction of valuable metals from asteroids.
  • 👾 The scalability of asteroid mining, coupled with the decreasing cost of space launches, presents a promising future for Astro Forge and similar companies.
  • 💪 Building strong relationships with investors and having a solid fundraising process are crucial for the success of deep-tech companies like Astro Forge.
  • 👨‍🔬 Researching and understanding potential investors' backgrounds and investment preferences is crucial before pitching to them.
  • 🏛️ Following up promptly after investor meetings and addressing any concerns or questions they may have can help maintain interest and build relationships.


and none of this would have been possible if SpaceX hadn't figured out how to do what they do absolutely not let's be honest about this Elon led the way here he showed that you know if he got the money for building Falcon 1 through Falcon 9 and dragon that there was a huge kind of pot of gold at the end of that rainbow and this really allowed VC to... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the primary metals Astro Forge is targeting for mining?

Astro Forge is primarily focused on mining Platinum Group metals, including iridium, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhodium, and ruthenium. These metals are valuable and widely used in various industries.

Q: How does Astro Forge plan to extract metals from asteroids?

Astro Forge uses a process of vaporization and surface heating, utilizing lasers to collect vapors from the asteroid surfaces. The collected vapor is then sorted to separate the valuable metals from other minerals. This method allows for efficient extraction and reduces the need for mechanical parts.

Q: What is the potential scale of asteroid mining for Astro Forge?

If Astro Forge's mining operations prove successful, the company envisions scaling up the number of missions and potentially sending multiple vehicles on each rocket launch. The long-term goal is to bring all mining off Earth and utilize the resources found in space.

Q: How does Astro Forge plan to bring the mined metals back to Earth?

Astro Forge's vehicles have a heat shield to protect the metals during reentry. The landing site is planned to be a range in Utah used for deep space reentry. Small parachutes are used to slow down the vehicle, and once landed, the metals can be retrieved for further processing.


In this video, Jason interviews Matt Gullick, the CEO of Astro Forge, a company that is using SpaceX's ride-sharing program to launch vehicles into space and mine asteroids for valuable metals. Matt explains the importance of mining asteroids for resources such as platinum group metals (PGMs), which are used in various industrial applications and are in short supply on Earth. He discusses the process of mining asteroids, the affordability of space travel due to SpaceX's advancements, and the potential scale and profitability of asteroid mining. Matt also shares insights from his experiences in hardware-based startups, such as Bird and Virgin Orbit, and emphasizes the need for capital efficiency in deep tech companies. He highlights the impact of SpaceX's innovations and the growing space economy in enabling companies like Astro Forge to succeed.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why should we be trying to mine asteroids? What resources are found on asteroids that are not available on Earth?

We are starting out by focusing on mining Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) from asteroids. These metals, such as platinum, iridium, and palladium, are vital in many industrial applications, including electronics. We are running out of these metals on Earth, and mining them here is environmentally destructive. However, there is evidence to suggest that asteroids have high concentrations of PGMs, making them a valuable resource worth mining.

Q: Are PGMs only found on asteroids or do they exist on Earth as well?

PGMs are found on both asteroids and Earth. In fact, some theories suggest that the presence of PGMs on Earth's surface is due to asteroid impacts in the past. Asteroids offer a potentially more abundant and concentrated source of PGMs, making them an attractive target for mining.

Q: How valuable are PGMs? What are their current trading prices?

PGMs are extremely valuable and are traded as commodities on the market. Prices can range from $400 to $20,000 per ounce, depending on the specific metal. These prices reflect the high demand and limited supply of PGMs.

Q: How does Astro Forge's vehicle mine asteroids in space? What is the process?

Our vehicle goes out to the asteroid and docks with it. Since asteroids are relatively small bodies, we can directly heat the surface using lasers, vaporizing the rocks. We then collect and sort the vaporized material, separating the valuable PGMs from other trace minerals. This process has been tested in thermal vacuum chambers on Earth, and we aim to demonstrate its feasibility in space with our upcoming missions.

Q: What happens after the PGMs are collected? How are they brought back to Earth?

The collected PGMs are stored behind a heat shield on our vehicle. When returning to Earth, the vehicle has a heat shield to protect it from the intense heat generated during re-entry. We use small parachutes to slow down the vehicle, which is composed mainly of metal, allowing us to take more risks in landing compared to human or scientific missions. The goal is to bring back only the valuable PGMs, minimizing the weight and cost of bringing materials back to Earth.

Q: How much PGMs can each mission bring back?

With our current projections and trajectories, we estimate that our missions can bring back around a thousand kilograms (a metric ton) of PGMs. The exact amount may vary depending on several factors, but this quantity demonstrates the potential scale of our operations.

Q: How big is Astro Forge's vehicle? Can you describe its size and the size of the asteroids it docks with?

Our vehicle, which will be used for mining, is about 10 feet in size and weighs around 200 kilograms. When considering the size of the asteroids, we are targeting relatively small bodies that are approximately 30 meters (100 feet) in diameter. These small rocks are suitable for docking and mining operations.

Q: How long does it take to build a company like Astro Forge, and how much funding is needed?

Building a company like Astro Forge is a highly ambitious endeavor that requires significant time and funding. With our current funding, we have been able to fund our first two missions, including the asteroid mining mission. However, to reach our end goal, we need to prove our technical capabilities and hit significant milestones, which will help us secure additional funding. It is crucial to demonstrate a clear plan for profitability and success to attract further investment. The timeline for achieving our milestones includes bringing back our first amount of metal (PGMs) by the end of this decade.

Q: How do you plan to scale Astro Forge if your operations are successful?

If we can prove the technical feasibility and profitability of mining asteroids, we can start scaling our operations significantly. This could involve purchasing entire Falcon 9 rockets instead of relying on ride-sharing programs. We could also increase the number of missions and vehicles sent to mine asteroids. Furthermore, our refinery has the potential to mine other elemental metals besides PGMs, depending on the cost-benefit analysis. The long-term goal is to bring all mining activities off Earth to minimize the environmental impact of mining on our planet.

Q: Are there any potential risks in mining asteroids, such as encountering unknown elements or alien materials?

While there is always a potential for surprises when exploring space, the focus of our mining operations is on known asteroids and the materials they contain. We don't anticipate encountering organic matter or alien materials that could pose a threat. However, some hazardous or radioactive materials may be found in small amounts, but our refining process effectively separates valuable materials from unwanted substances. The risks associated with mining asteroids are relatively low, given that our operations target small, heavily exposed bodies rather than planets with atmospheres.

Q: How do hardware-based startups differ from software-based startups in terms of building and scaling the company?

Hardware-based startups, particularly in deep tech industries like space, pose unique challenges compared to software-based startups. It is crucial to be capital-efficient and avoid unnecessary spending. While the speed of execution is still important, profitability and unit economics play a more significant role in deep tech companies. Managing capital purchases, such as rockets or specialized components, requires careful planning and consideration. The key is to demonstrate the ability to hit milestones, generate significant revenue, and build a sustainable business at the intersection of technology and hardware manufacturing.

Q: Do you think venture capital is the right funding source for companies like Astro Forge, or would government partnerships be more appropriate?

While government partnerships and funding may have their merits, our focus is on being a commercial space company. Venture capital offers the opportunity to take significant risks for potentially substantial payoffs. Astro Forge aims to build a profitable business that can change the world through its asteroid mining operations. In the early stages, we have received great support from various venture capital firms and investors. However, we must prove ourselves as a financially viable and technically capable company, regardless of the involvement of government funding. It is essential to create a strong business case and demonstrate the potential for long-term profitability.


Asteroid mining has the potential to provide valuable resources that are scarce on Earth, such as Platinum Group Metals (PGMs). Advances in space travel technology, particularly SpaceX's innovations, have made space missions more affordable, allowing companies like Astro Forge to enter the market. By utilizing off-the-shelf components and focusing on capital efficiency, Astro Forge aims to mine asteroids and bring back PGMs for commercial purposes. The success of SpaceX has paved the way for other space-related startups and highlighted the potential for significant advancements in the space economy. While deep tech hardware-based startups may face challenges, careful planning, adherence to unit economics, and hitting milestones are crucial to success.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Astro Forge is utilizing SpaceX's ride-sharing program to launch vehicles into space and mine asteroids.

  • The company focuses on mining Platinum Group metals, which are valuable and used in industrial applications.

  • By accessing resources from asteroids, Astro Forge aims to address the limited resources on Earth and reduce the environmental impact of mining.

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