While asteroid mining company Planetary Resources has set its sights firmly on asteroids, and their technologies on devices that exploit them, investors are backing a project that will keep the company a little closer to home.

The company announced May 26 that it has secured US$21.1 million in Series A funding, money which will be used to deploy and operate Ceres (no, not the dwarf planet). Ceres is an advanced Earth observation project that will use Planetary Resources' Arkyd 100 satellites to observe places of interest on Earth.

The same sensors that were originally designed to prospect asteroids will now be used to deliver affordable, on-demand Earth intelligence of our natural resources on any spot on the planet. The sensors will offer two distinct views of our planet, mid-wave infrared and hyperspectral imaging.

By 2019, the company plans to have a constellation of 10 Arkyd 100 microsatellites in low Earth orbit, equipped with those mid-wave infrared and hyperspectral sensors that can track water content, crop growth, oil and gas leaks, and even forest fires. They will observe "an unprecedented 40 color bands" in the visible to near-infrared spectrum.

But to fans of asteroid mining, don't be alarmed. The constellation of satellites being put up will still be (eventually) used to spot resources in near-Earth asteroids.

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