A child holds part of a rocket model at an exhibition featuring the development of China's space exploration on the country's Space Day at China Science and Technology Museum in Beijing, China April 24, 2021.
REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo
BEIJING, April 27 (Reuters) - A Chinese space mining start-up launched into low Earth orbit on Tuesday a robot prototype that can scoop up debris left behind by other spacecraft with a big net.
The NEO-01, which will also peer into deep space to observe small celestial bodies, was launched on the government's Long March 6 rocket along with a handful of satellites, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The 30kg robot developed by Shenzhen-based Origin Space will pave the way for future technologies capable of mining on asteroids, according to the company.
Since the establishment of the world's first asteroid mining company Planetary Resources in 2009, more than a dozen firms across the world have entered the fledging sector, including 3D Systems (DDD.N) of the United States and Japan's Astroscale.
Unlike Astroscale's technology, which uses magnets to gather up space junk, NEO-01 will use a net to capture debris and then burn it with its electric propulsion system, according to a report on the company's website.