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Asteroid prospectors require a ship that is small enough to operate cheaply, agile enough to avoid wandering asteroids, and durable enough to endure what it can't dodge. The Thunderbird fills this need well and has become common among prospectors operating from larger ships and space stations.
Although its limited fuel supply gives it a short range and it is somewhat cramped for space, the vessel is easily modified and comes equipped with an excellent sensor package. These qualities have also made them popular among some bounty hunters.