by Greg Klein | June 6, 2016
One of the tiniest countries on this planet wants to make a big impression elsewhere. So Luxembourg’s backing its space industry with another €200 million—and there’s more to come. The announcement came on June 3 as the duchy updated its plan to establish a legal framework for asteroid mining. Luxembourg also stated its intention to launch an extraterrestrial mining survey within three years. The overall agenda is to maintain a position among the world’s “top 10 space-faring nations.”
Interestingly, the funding amount came out not in the government’s news release but in response to a press conference question from Reuters. But economy minister Etienne Schneider added, “If we need more money we will be able to provide that money.”
Among the likely beneficiaries will be two American companies, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources. Deep Space signed an MOU with Luxembourg in May to co-fund R&D projects related to asteroid mining. The country anticipates a similar agreement with Planetary.
“We are discussing becoming shareholders as well,” said Schneider.
The entrepreneurial duchy provides funding and investment to a number of high-tech sectors. Since it helped create commercial satellite operator SES in 1985, Luxembourg has attracted and nurtured 25 companies and two public research organizations devoted to outer space, according to a government website. Or, according to Schneider, the country hosts 30 to 40 companies “active in the space business.”
Luxembourg first stated its intention to establish a legal and regulatory regimen for space mining in February, following legislation enacted by the U.S. the previous November. That law granted Americans the right to keep resources extracted from near-earth objects. Schneider said similar legislation will attract even more companies to Luxembourg and provide greater investor confidence.
The country’s first space mining survey will launch in three years, maybe sooner, according to government adviser Simon “Pete” Worden. The NASA vet said a small satellite would “fly by a selected asteroid and figure out what the resources are.”
In November Planetary Resources president/chief engineer Chris Lewicki told ResourceClips.com the company planned to use a spacecraft this spring to determine the makeup of some space rocks with an infrared imager. He anticipated small scale extraction of water, hydrogen and oxygen within the first half of the next decade.
Those components of rocket fuel would be the first targeted resources. But the company maintains that a 500-metre asteroid “can contain more platinum group metals than have ever been mined in human history.”