Friday 28th October 2016

Resource Clips

Posts tagged ‘Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT)’

Ever deeper, ever higher

October 11th, 2016

China takes on three mining frontiers, but not without competition

by Greg Klein

This is the first of a two-part feature. See Part 2.

Nearly a century before laggard Europeans got around to their Age of Exploration, Chinese merchant vessels had been travelling at least as far as eastern Africa, returning with vast shiploads of treasure. The voyages ended abruptly in 1433, for reasons debated by historians, and rulers ordered a massive merchant fleet destroyed. That largely left the New World to Westerners, evidently not a policy China intends to repeat. Now the country plans the conquest of three new frontiers: “deep underground, deep sky and deep sea.”

Such are the goals of Three Deep, a five-year plan announced last month by the country’s Ministry of Land and Resources. China’s funding R&D that would take mineral exploration deeper than ever on land and at sea, while exploring from outer space as well. But formidable as they are, the three frontiers aren’t completely uncharted. The expansionist, resource-hungry regime will have competition.

China takes on three mining frontiers, but not without competition

By 2020 the country wants the ability to mine land-based deposits that begin two kilometres in depth, find minerals at three kilometres, and identify oil and gas at 6.5 to 10 kilometres, the South China Morning Post reported October 5. China intends to develop underground communities too, although those details were even more scarce.

China also plans technology for undersea mineral exploration and mining, working towards the ability to send a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to 11 kilometres’ depth by 2020, the paper added. That’s slightly beyond the deepest known point of any seabed. The country has already sent an ROV seven kilometres deep in the Pacific. In the Indian Ocean, Chinese have been studying seabed mining technology on a 10,000-square-kilometre area south of Madagascar, the SCMP stated.

Going from the depths to the heavens, China wants 27 satellites in orbit by 2020 to conduct surveys and research, partly on terrestrial mineral potential. The country also has expressed ambitions for moon and Mars landings, and for sending its citizens into space. A Chinese competitor to SpaceX, One Space Technology, plans its first commercial rocket launch in 2018.

SpaceX, of course, retains its Elon Musk confidence even after the Falcon 9 rocket blew up prior to take-off last month, destroying a $300-million communications satellite. Having received NASA contracts to ferry people and cargo to the International Space Station, Musk continues to talk about sending colonists to Mars. He’s already sent some lithium stocks to the moon.

Probably among the more credible companies talking about mining the heavens are Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries. Both develop technology for NAFTA and both have signed MOUs with Luxembourg that would help finance mineral exploration and mining of near-Earth asteroids. The Grand Duchy, a global leader in satellite communications, has announced its willingness to invest in extra-terrestrial mining to become a world leader in other worlds. The country also plans to create a legal framework for its outer space endeavours, after the U.S. passed legislation giving Americans the right to keep any extra-terrestrial commodities they extract.

Deep Space says it will launch its Prospector X experimental asteroid explorer “in the near future.” By the first half of the next decade, Planetary expects to begin small-scale extraction of asteroid water for its oxygen and hydrogen.

Already a nine-year veteran of the main asteroid belt, NASA’s Dawn craft now orbits the dwarf planet Ceres after having studied the proto-planet Vesta. Last month the space agency’s NASA OSIRIS-REx set off for the asteroid Bennu, with arrival expected in 2018 and return in 2023.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has been to that neighbourhood and back after its Hayabusa craft delivered asteroid samples in 2010.

Last month the European Space Agency ended the 12-year, eight-billion-kilometre odyssey of its Rosetta craft, which spent the last two years studying a comet. In a joint project with Russia’s Roscosmos, the ESA expects to land a capsule on Mars on October 19 to search for signs of previous life.

Russia’s moon exploration program sees potential for minerals delivered by asteroid impact. “In the next few years, all scheduled moon flights will focus on its southern polar region, where low-temperature reservoirs of rare earths, as well as unknown volatile substances, have been detected,” Industrial Minerals quoted Vladislav Shevchenko of Moscow State University. Given higher commodity prices, mining could be viable, he added.

Boeing NYSE:BA recently matched Musk’s big talk as CEO Dennis Muilenburg spoke about sending holidayers to orbiting tourist traps prior to linking up with the Red Planet. “I’m convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket,” Bloomberg quoted him last week. As a NASA contractor Boeing competes with SpaceX on its own and through the United Launch Alliance, a JV with Lockheed Martin NYSE:LMT.

This is the first of a two-part feature. See Part 2.

Lockheed Martin spokesperson Dana Carroll points out some differences between her company’s airship and previous efforts to defy gravity

April 22nd, 2016

…Read more

Airships to the Arctic?

March 31st, 2016

A Lockheed Martin LOI launches high-flying hopes for northern transportation

by Greg Klein

Bush planes opened up much of Canada to mining, but now there’s talk of a different type of aircraft transforming the industry. On March 30 Lockheed Martin NYSE:LMT announced a letter of intent in which England-based Straightline Aviation would purchase up to 12 Hybrid Airships, a new contraption that evokes pre-Hindenburg efforts to defy gravity. Straightline would then contract its services to resource companies, among other clients.

Lockheed has yet to build the airships. No indication was given whether Straightline has, or can raise, the approximately US$480 million that the ships might cost.

Airship LOI re-launches high-flying hopes for northern transportation

A simulated image shows Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Airship.

But Straightline COO Mark Dorey extols the potential benefits to Canada’s north. “We’re aware that part of the world is very sensitive from an environmental point of view,” Canadian Press quoted him. “You don’t have to build ice roads or bridges, or wait for the environmentalists to give you permission. You can simply land on the ice.”

Or on water or terrain, provided there’s a clearing nearly as big as a football field. The craft measures about 45 metres wide by 91 metres long and 24 metres tall.

Straightline “was co-founded by a team of highly experienced airship and aviation executives with the sole purpose of bringing Hybrids into operation,” according to Lockheed.

Yet as of press time Straightline’s website had little to say, except that the company “is the world’s first owner-operator of these new hybrid, hi-tech, heavy-lift aircraft, manufactured in the USA by Lockheed Martin and in the UK by Hybrid Air Vehicles, that are about to revolutionize worldwide air transportation.”

Hybrid Air Vehicles actually has an airship sitting in a hangar in England. Its Airlander 10 “can take off and land in a short distance from unprepared sites in desert, ice, water or open field environments,” the company states. “The Airlander 10 is designed to stay airborne for up to five days at a time to fulfil a wide range of communication and survey roles, as well as cargo-carrying and tourist passenger flights.”

The Hybrid Airship uses helium—non-flammable in nature—carrying about 10,000 pounds, whereas the Hindenburg carried seven million cubic feet of hydrogen gas.—Dana Carroll,
spokesperson for Lockheed Martin

Of course these somewhat zeppelin-like machines can bring to mind the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, etched into historical memory through dramatic photos and a live radio account. Lockheed’s Dana Carroll emphasizes “several standout differences” with her company’s design. “Most notably, the Hybrid Airship uses helium—non-flammable in nature—carrying about 10,000 pounds, whereas the Hindenburg carried seven million cubic feet of hydrogen gas,” she informs “Also, the skin of the Hybrid Airship is made of non-flammable material, which further helps in safety.”

Her company has over 20 years’ experience designing, building and testing airships, she adds. “In fact, the Lockheed Martin Hybrid Airship (LMH-1) is the only cargo airship with an approved FAA Certification Plan.”

Lockheed has built and tested a half-scale prototype. That ship “has not flown since November 2006 because we completed the flight test program and met all the test objectives. The aircraft remains in the hangar as a static display model.”

As for the length of time the ship can remain aloft, it’s partly affected by speed. At a reduced rate “you could technically go around the world in 30 days” without landing, Carroll says.

Should all go well with the Straightline deal, the first airship could be flying by late 2018, she adds.

Related reading: What might airships do for Ontario’s Ring of Fire?

Watch a short promo video for Lockheed’s yet-to-be-built Hybrid Airship.

Beautiful, brilliant, bloodless

November 22nd, 2013

Exploration gains momentum as the world’s affluent covet Canadian diamonds

by Greg Klein

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The old saying aside, diamonds are not forever—not when existing supplies are depleting. So the search continues for new deposits. And it’s in Canada, the country that transformed the international market with its high-quality, ethically produced stones, that much of the exploration takes place. Now the market might be facing another transformation, not from new supply in Canada but new demand in China and India.

“Historically that’s not where most of the diamonds have been sold,” says Patrick Power, president of Arctic Star Exploration TSXV:ADD. “But they’re opening up right now largely due to the efforts of De Beers. China and India have never been incorporated into any [forecast] number before.”

As luxury items—industrial diamonds play a negligible role in the market, Power says—the gems’ value depends on the alliterative vagaries of colour, clarity, cut and carats. Esthetic values can be subjective, but a complete lack of colour generally gives a diamond the highest value. Clarity concerns the absence of imperfections. Cut involves the technical precision in faceting a stone’s shape to enhance its colour and brilliance or “fire.” Of course greater weight, measured in carats, also increases value.

Exploration gains momentum as the world’s affluent covet Canadian diamonds

But the value of Canadian diamonds goes beyond the four Cs. Power puts it bluntly: “They’re not blood diamonds. They’re ethically mined. All parties participate in the wealth. So there’s a premium paid for that,” he explains.

“Plus they’re fantastic diamonds. De Beers’ Victor mine in northern Ontario is producing stones that are $400-plus a carat. That’s an amazing diamond. So we have quality plus branding. Canada was the first country ever to brand diamonds, with the polar bear diamond and the maple leaf diamond. Ekati and Diavik put micro-signatures on each diamond’s girdle. That’s Canadian. No one ever did that before.”

Supply/demand predictions can be troublesome. But the supply of diamonds above one carat (0.2 grams) marks the point “where they start to get scarce,” Power says. “And if you want two, three, four carats of better-quality diamonds, you can tell your supply is dropping.”

Of course growing affluence in emerging markets, where De Beers has been peddling its opulence, would seem to enhance demand. As for the ultra-wealthy, they’re paying record-breaking prices. In early November Christie’s sold “the largest fancy vivid orange diamond ever offered at auction (14.82 carats)” for $35.5 million. The company had hoped for about $20 million.

Just one day earlier, Sotheby’s sold the 59.6-carat Pink Star for $83.2 million.

But the excitement’s not limited to the über rich. The people who search for the stones have a passion of their own. “What’s really exciting for those of us exploring in the Northwest Territories is that the technology is changing for the first time in a long time. We can look again at ground that was previously explored and find new stuff,” Power says.

In particular, a helicopter-borne gravity gradiometry survey over Arctic Star’s Redemption project in the Lac de Gras diamond fields found 32 anomalies, including some at the head of a glacial mineral train. The results, announced in October, could indicate the presence of kimberlite pipes among the more dense granitic rock.

Developed by Lockheed Martin and BHP Billiton NYE:BHP at least 15 years ago, the technology’s been available to other companies for less than three years, Power explains. “It’s now the third generation of that system. We’re amazed at the high-quality data, as compared to the first generation when BHP flew Ekati way back when. Gravity is a very difficult, time-consuming and expensive thing to do on the ground. Surveys are traditionally small. But you can fly the entire area with this system. We’re seeing things that we haven’t seen before.”

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