Wednesday 26th October 2016

Resource Clips

Posts tagged ‘luxembourg’

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.

Luxembourg’s economy minister Etienne Schneider promises another €200 million, with more to come, for a space industry that would include extra-terrestrial mining

June 23rd, 2016

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Luxembourg offers space industry €200 million, plans asteroid mining survey

June 6th, 2016

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.”

Luxembourg offers space industry €200 million, plans asteroid mining survey

A recent design by SES. The world’s largest commercial satellite
operator was founded in 1985 with Luxembourg’s support.
(Image: Airbus Defence and Space)

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 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.”