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A Kraków start-up has teamed up with a US nuclear company to carry out an unmanned mission to the moon to extract a rare and valuable isotope of helium thought to be the key to the production of pure nuclear energy.
Solar System Resources Corporation from Kraków, an innovative space mining start-up, intend to extract and bring back 300kg of the rare isotope to Earth by 2028 with the US based Nuclear Corp, a nuclear company which has participated in advanced projects for the American army and government.
The company is also involved in studies into using nuclear fusion to produce energy and the use of rare isotopes in medicine.
Helium isotope, known as helium-3 is found in much greater quantities in natural stores on the moon than those on Earth, where it is 100 million times more abundant.
On Earth, it mainly arises as a by-product of the conservation of nuclear weapons.
The Helium-3 will be instrumental in the development of new energy technologies, particularly the technology of thermonuclear fusion, where it is thought it could be effectively used as the fuel for new nuclear fusion reactors producing clean energy free of radioactive waste and greenhouse gases.
Due to the assumption of the isotope’s use in thermonuclear fusion, and its scarcity, the market rate of Helium-3 is currently 16.6 million dollars a tonne.
Experts from Solar System Resources Corporation estimate that 200 tonnes of Helium-3 would be enough to satisfy the annual energy needs of the world’s population.
Dr Adam Zwierzyński, director and co-founder of the Kraków based company said: “We’ve signed a historic partnership. We believe that in the near future it will contribute to satisfying the growing global energy needs and will hasten the development of the global space industry – especially in the area of space mining.
“We also believe it will contribute to the rise of innovation in Poland and will encourage people to set up and invest in space start-ups and will inspire young people to take up technical studies.”
Helium-3 can also be used in MRI scanners and radioactive material detector used at airports and border crossings.
Bob Goldstein, CEO of US Nuclear Corp said: “The benefits could be astronomical because the substances which are to be extracted are uniquely rare on Earth and instrumental when it comes to their usage in generating fusion energy, medical scanners, making electronics, cars and mobile phones.
“There is no guarantee that the first mission will be profitable, however the following ones could be profitable on the scale of millions or even billions of both dollars and złoty.”
In a joint press statement, the two companies said their cooperation was motivated by “the dramatic climate crisis and pandemic and the urgent need to find new alternative sources of ecological, clean and safe and stable energy, accepted by the international environmental community, which will fill the dynamic needs of the world population and economy of the 21st century and which won’t destabilise ecosystems as a result of the exploitation of raw energy materials and which will fill the gap left by the inability of renewable green energy to fully fulfil future energy demands.”
The letter of intent signed between the two companies, which is the first transatlantic agreement of this kind, is the first step towards the unique space mission.
Solar System Resources Corporation also declared an intention to work with other companies on the project, including research institutes in Poland.