Raumfahrt - Luxemburg will sich an Asteroiden Ausbeutung beteiligen



It may sound like something from a sci-fi movie but Luxembourg's joint-venture to mine asteroids is about to get very real.

(TL) It may sound like something from a sci-fi movie but Luxembourg's joint-venture to mine asteroids is more than the stuff of mere movies. 
A world's first, the Grand Duchy is expected to work with SES, two US companies and financiers to pull off the crazy coup, which will see Luxembourg become a major global player in space resources. 
The project, further information about which will be revealed by Luxembourg Economy Minister Etienne Schneider on Wednesday, will focus on harnessing resources such as gold, platinum, water and other minerals from the 13,000 or so asteroids found close to the earth.
Experts place the value of the minerals exploited from a cubic metre of an asteroid at 1,000 billion USD, making this a highly lucrative venture. 
But, how can such resources be mined? 
This is where Luxembourg comes in. 
Minister Schneider has apparently been working on the project in secret since visiting NASA's research centre in August 2013, trying to convince the two main players to settle in Luxembourg.
The companies in question are Planetary Resources, founded in 2012 by a group of technology experts like Google founder Larry Page, and Deep Space Industries, considered the leader in the development of space tourism.
The project is not expected to come cheap. To have a rough idea of the price tag, NASA has reportedly budgeted a billion USD for the OSIRIS-REx mission to bring back just 60 grams of asteroid material. 
And it remains to be seen to whom this matter mined in space will belong.
For Americans, the matter is somewhat clear. US President Barack Obama signed a law on November 25 stating that any asteroid material brought to earth by an American citizen belongs to them. 
Quelle: Luxemburger Wort
Update: 1.06.2016
Press Conference on June 3, 2016 on the Luxembourg Initiative to Support the Use of Space Resources
LUXEMBOURG--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is pleased to announce an international press conference to highlight the latest developments of the recently announced initiative. The initiative defines a framework for the exploration and commercial utilization of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids.
The press conference will be hosted by:
Mr. Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister, Minister of State, Minister for Communications and Media
Mr. Étienne Schneider, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy
This media event will be held in the presence of:
Mr. Jean-Jacques Dordain, long-standing Director General of the European Space Agency ESA
Dr. Simon Pete Worden, long-standing Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center
The press conference is scheduled for 5:00 PM Friday, June 3, 2016 for a duration of 1 hour (Note : Times are in Luxembourg Time GMT+2).
Quelle: Business Wire
Update: 4.06.2016
For the first time a country has invested heavily in space mining
We could live comfortably on resources just from space. But is it economical?
Luxembourg, a small European country about the size of Rhode Island, wants to be the Silicon Valley of the space mining industry. The landlocked Grand Duchy announced Friday it was opening a €200 million ($225 million) line of credit for entrepreneurial space companies to set up their European headquarters within its borders.
Luxembourg has already reached agreements with two US-based companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, to open offices in Luxembourg and conduct major research and development activities. "We intend to become the European center for asteroid mining," said Étienne Schneider, deputy prime minister and minister of the economy, during a news conference Friday.
The mining of space resources is a long bet. Although some deep-pocketed investors from Google and other companies have gotten behind Planetary Resources, and people like Amazon's Jeff Bezos have speculated that within a couple of decades most manufacturing and resource gathering will be done off Earth, there is precious little activity today. Humans have never visited an asteroid, and NASA is only just planning to launch its first robotic mission to visit and gather samples from an asteroid, OSIRIS-REx, this summer.
Nevertheless, no one doubts that outer space is overflowing with resources. Asteroids are packed with precious metals, 24-hour solar power from the Sun could be beamed back to Earth, and the reservoirs of water on the moon, asteroids, and beyond could be used for fuel, farming, drinking, and shielding us from radiation. Humans on Earth could theoretically live very comfortably on space resources without ever mining our home planet again.
The question is whether obtaining such resources could be made economical any time soon. Luxembourg intends to find out. Like the United States did last fall with its Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, Luxembourg plans to rewrite its laws so that private companies are entitled to the resources they mine from asteroids, but not entitled to own the asteroids themselves. "We will become the first European country to set out its own legal framework," Schneider said.
The country may also do more than just offer companies a line of private credit. Luxembourg may invest in those companies itself, just like it invested in SES, which is now one of the world's largest satellite companies. Back in the mid-1980s when Luxembourg first invested in SES, there was a similar amount of skepticism about the satellite industry, Schneider said. People wondered if they were in danger of satellites falling out of the sky on them.
Pete Worden, the former director of NASA's Ames Research Center, is advising Luxembourg on this initiative. NASA is interested in going to Mars, and Europe is interested in lunar exploration, Dr. Worden said. But it is inefficient for any space agency to launch all of the resources it needs for extended space missions from Earth and potentially much less expensive to pick up supplies once in space. This could allow for the use of smaller, less expensive rockets. Worden envisions a time when NASA contracts with space miners to purchase quantities of water and other materials needed to further their exploration.
"I believe the future lies in a robust space economy that is driven by commercial interests," Worden said during the news conference. "The interesting thing is that we’re seeing a situation here where space agencies globally are moving from doing these things themselves. Just as NASA is contracting with launch companies, what we hope here is that the resources one needs to explore space can be purchased from these entrepreneurs."
The two companies mentioned on Friday, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, are moving forward with plans to test asteroid mining techniques, both on the ground and then in space. Luxembourgian officials said Friday they believed that one or both of these companies could launch missions to survey potential asteroid mining targets within three years.
Quelle: ars technica
Update: 6.06.2016
Luxembourg Stakes Initial 200 Million Euros to Become Silicon Valley of Space Resources

The Government of Luxembourg is staking 200 million Euros to kick-start the nascent space resources utilization business -- prospecting for and eventually mining and selling resources extracted from the Moon, asteroids or other solar system bodies.  The country's Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister made the announcement Friday flanked by former European Space Agency (ESA) Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and former NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider spoke at a press conference in Luxembourg to discuss the country's initiative, announced in February, and how it fits into the government's overall strategy to become "one of the top 10 space faring countries in the world."  Dordain and Worden are members of the government's advisory board for the initiative.
Former ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider, and former NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden at Luxembourg space resources initiative press conference June 3, 2016.  Screengrab from webcast.
Although the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a small country with a population of just 570,000, it already has a significant presence in the space business as the corporate home of the two largest global fixed communications satellite operators, SES and Intelsat.  SES established its headquarters in Luxembourg in 1985 and Bettel and Schneider referenced that event several times as Luxembourg's entry into the space business. 
Just as it passed a law at that time to create the legal framework for communications satellite services, Bettel and Schneider announced that they now will press forward with a new law to govern space resource utilization.  Schneider said Luxembourg wants to be the European center for asteroid mining and to be the first European country to establish its own legal framework for that purpose.  When asked if the new law will only cover asteroids or will the Moon, for example, also be included, Schneider replied it is "everything in outer space."
Luxembourg has a streamlined governmental structure that should allow it to move quickly.  Bettel is not only the Prime Minister, but also the Minister of Communications and Media, Minister of State, Minister for Religious Affairs, and Minister of Culture.  Schneider similarly wears several hats -- Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy, Minister of Internal Security and Minister of Defence.  A constitutional monarchy, it has a unicameral legislature -- the 60-member Chamber of Deputies.   Bettel said he will propose the new legislation this year and expects to pass next year.
One difference between the Luxembourg law and the space resource utilization provisions of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA, also called the SPACE Act) enacted in 2015, Schneider said, is that the U.S. law applies only to U.S. companies with majority U.S. capital.  The Luxembourg law will be "open to all investors" located in Luxembourg, so companies seeking international capital will be able to find it there.  "I don't know why the Americans limited themselves to American capital, but we will not."
The relevant portion of CSLCA (Title IV of P.L. 114-90) applies to U.S. citizens as defined in section 50902 of title 51 of the U.S. Code -- (A) a U.S. citizen, (B) an entity organized or existing under U.S. law, or (C) an entity organized or existing under the laws of a foreign country if the controlling interest is held by (A) or (B).
Two U.S. companies focused on asteroid mining, Deep Space Industries (DSi) and Planetary Resources Inc, already have or plan to establish European headquarters in Luxembourg, Schneider said.  DSi and Luxembourg announced a partnership last month to build a 3U cubesat, Prospector-X, to test technologies needed for asteroid mining (propulsion, avionics and optical navigation) in low Earth orbit.  Planetary Resources, which bills itself as "the asteroid mining company," but just announced plans to build an earth remote sensing satellite, is also working with Luxembourg and Schneider said a Memorandum of Understanding would be signed soon for cooperation in both space resource utilization and earth observation.
The Luxembourg government established an advisory board that includes Dordain and Worden, who joined Bettel and Schneider at Friday's press conference.  Dordain said the main goal is to attract entrepreneurs and investors to Luxembourg, bringing jobs.  Worden added that his experiences in Silicon Valley (close to NASA-Ames) were a foundation for his work on the advisory board and he foresees Luxembourg becoming the Silicon Valley for space resources, a sentiment Schneider echoed.
Schneider revealed that his government has provided a 200 million Euro (approximately $230 million) line of credit to get started on creating the legal framework and for investing in new ventures.  The money will be used for research and development (R&D) grants and other purposes, including Luxembourg becoming a shareholder in companies like DSi or Planetary Resources.  He also made clear that the 200 million Euros is just the beginning.  If more is needed, "we will be able to provide that money," he promised.
Luxembourg is a member of ESA and currently co-chairs, together with Switzerland, the ESA Council of Ministers.  Schneider is Luxembourg's representative in that capacity.  He noted that initially Luxembourg considered working through ESA on this initiative, but determined it would be too difficult to reach agreement with all of ESA's member states in the short term.  Instead, Luxembourg will go it alone for now, but he noted that other ESA members are interested and future collaboration will be discussed at December's Ministerial Meeting.   He and Bettel expressed repeatedly that it takes someone to take the risk to kick-start new ideas like this and Luxembourg wants to be that one.
Quelle: Space and Technology Policy Group.
Update: 4.11.2016

Luxembourg digs deep for asteroid mining project

The funds will be used to further the firm's technical advancements so that it can launch the first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by 2020.
The funds will be used to further the firm's technical advancements so that it can launch the first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by 2020.  

Luxembourg's Government has invested 25 million euros in asteroid-mining firm Planetary Resources Inc, making it a key shareholder. 

The investment was made via public-law banking institution “Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement” (SNCI) and was agreed as part of Luxembourg's initiative to mine resources from near earth objects such as asteroids.

The funds will be used to further the firm's technical advancements so that it can launch the first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by 2020. 

This partnership follows a memorandum of understanding signed this past June to develop in Luxembourg activities related to space resource utilization. In May 2016, Planetary Resources, Inc. established a wholly-owned Luxembourg based subsidiary named Planetary Resources Luxembourg.

The public equity position is taken by the SNCI to become a minority shareholder and Georges Schmit, Government's Advisory Board member of the initiative, joins Planetary Resources’ Board of Directors. 

Prior to his current position, Georges Schmit was Consul General and Executive Director at the Luxembourg Trade & Investment Office in San Francisco, after being Director General for Enterprise Policy, Economic Development and Foreign Trade, Secretary General, and Director of Industry at the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy and Foreign Trade which he joined in 1981. From 1995-2002 he was Executive Chairman of the SNCI.

Planetary Resources, for its part, is strengthening the local space industry by developing several key activities exclusively in Luxembourg focused on propulsion development, spacecraft launch integration, deep space communications, asteroid science systems, Earth observation product development and mission operations.

Quelle: Luxemburger Wort


Update: 21.06.2017


Luxembourg and the European Space Agency enhance cooperation on asteroid missions, related technology and space resources exploration and utilisation

Communiqué – Publié le  

At the occasion of the 2017 Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Etienne Schneider visited the ESA pavilion and, together with ESA Director General, Jan Wörner, signed a joint statement on future activities concerning missions to the asteroids, related technologies and space resources exploration and utilisation.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the European Space Agency jointly agreed on the opportunity to further studying technical and scientific aspects of space resources exploration and utilization activities. To this aim ESA will undertake an analysis of the feasibility assessment and technical maturity of asteroids exploration and utilization. The analysis shall contribute to assess future missions, and in particular, at national level to help defining specific requirements related to the authorisation and the supervision by the State as well as regulatory matters.

Furthermore, this analysis will also contribute to Near Earth Asteroids classification, define methods to study the interiors of asteroids, look at multi-sampling technology, and address technologies for in-situ extraction and operations on asteroidal surfaces. It may also consider laboratory experiments with meteorites/ analogues as well as the conception of a virtual institute devoted to the science of asteroids and related technologies.

As any other ESA Member States so requesting, Luxembourg will be associated to the analysis as element of its initiative that aims to offer an attractive overall framework for the exploration and exploitation of space resources.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy, Etienne Schneider declared:"The enhanced cooperation between Luxembourg and ESA is another significant milestone for our initiative. It is the logical continuation of the collaboration we have had with ESA since the announcement of our initiative in February last year. The cooperation between ESA and Luxembourg joins the Grand Duchy’s commitment to helping the commercial sector realize its plans to develop space resources business. Luxembourg is ready and eager to support and nurture the growing number of commercial space initiatives, their many suppliers and customers – and the intrepid explorers that intend to make space mining a reality".

ESA Director General, Jan Wörner stated:"I am pleased of this opportunity to further enhance our cooperation with Luxembourg. Their initiative perfectly embodies my vision of Space 4.0 both as an example of and a driver in a new paradigm of conducting space activities."

By signing the joint statement, Luxembourg and ESA jointly recognized the benefits achieved by space exploration to the whole of humankind by furthering scientific knowledge, fostering technical innovation, inspiring the people and enhancing peaceful international cooperation. Moreover European accomplishments in space exploration foster European cohesion and identity and position Europe as an inspiring force globally. In this context, the important role of asteroids as potential resources to extend human presence in space as well as their potential risk of impacting Earth is jointly recognized.

Luxembourg has been cooperating with ESA for nearly 20 years now and has been an ESA Member State since 2005. At the latest ESA Council meeting at ministerial level Luxembourg increased its subscriptions also in fields associated with missions to Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and related technologies.

Conversely, ESA has been following with interest the Luxembourg’s initiative. A joint Luxembourg / ESA working group has been meeting regularly to exchange information and prepare potential joint activities.

The Asteroid Science Intersections with In-Space Mine Engineering (ASIME2016) workshop held in September 2016 in Luxembourg with the support of the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy, Europlanet, the University of Luxembourg, and ESA was an example of cooperation to advance on understanding on the issues related to asteroid missions and the exploration and future utilisation of space resources.



Update: 20.11.2017


Luxembourg is 'ready and willing' to invest, says Schneider


"When you mention the word Luxembourg in the international space community, everyone stops and wants to hear more," says Gary Martin, the former NASA Ames Director who has recently joined the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy as an independent advisor for its space affairs unit. 

But people in the industry seem not only willing to hear more about Luxembourg, they are also heading to the country to attend the first ever NewSpace Europe conference. 

Put bluntly, everyone interested in exploring the economic opportunities offered by space, SpaceX, GomSpace, ispace among many others, made sure to be in the Grand-Duchy on November 16 and 17. 

In that sense, the government's wish has already become true. Luxembourg is shaping up to be an international meeting point and a European hub for the exploration and the use of space resources.

And the ambition doesn't end there.  

Luxembourg's space dream

In his opening speech at the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider left participants in no doubt. 

"Luxembourg is ready and eager to support and nurture the growing number of commercial space initiatives," he said. 

Even more so, Schneider announced the launch of  a space agency that would "take into account the needs of NewSpace companies". The agency will gather the private fund industry, venture capitalists and the government and will decide in which companies to invest. 

"The Luxembourg government is even willing to invest into the more risky part of these businesses," added Schneider.

Luxembourg has committed to €200 million in funding for early-stage space ventures. 

But perhaps for those who are are still left wondering why tiny Luxembourg is so keen on exploring and exploiting space resources, the answer is simple.

Luxembourg has always been focused on the future. 

For Schneider, it has always been about "reinventing ourselves". He argued that the Grand-Duchy masters the art of combining "a liberal and extremely business-friendly climate with strong public support for innovation". So, focusing on the exploration and the use of space resources should be seen as a logical progression. 

After all, Luxembourg has previously taken bets on industries that no one believed in at the time. Perhaps, space mining will turn out to be the new SES or will grow out to be Luxembourg's financial centre of tomorrow. 

Seize the opportunity

In his speech, Schneider talked about 'recognising the opportunities' and acting on it.

"We have often been taking the world by surprise and have repeatedly demonstrated our strong ability to adapt and to take initiatives no one expected," he said.

And for the most part, Luxembourg is being praised for being a front-runner.

"It's great that Luxembourg is going in this direction...putting the country on the worldwide space map. I am really happy about that," says Johann-Dietrich Woerner, General Director of the European Space Agency (ESA). 

"I welcome what Luxembourg is doing. It's the right way," he added.

The former NASA Ames director Gary Martin agrees. He believes Luxembourg is a small country, but a very agile one.  It was this aspect that brought him to the Grand-Duchy, where he will be responsible for the creation and development of the local space ecosystem, involving national partners from research and academia. 

Martin will be directly involved in the strategy of the initiative and assist the Directorate-General for Research, Intellectual Property and New Technologies at the Ministry of Economy.

As Schneider noted, was created 18 months ago to promote "the peaceful exploration and sustainable use of space resources" and provides a framework for such activities, including space mining.

Yet exploring space resources is not Luxembourg's first venture in space. It was over 30 years ago that SES was launched as a public-private partnership to become a global satellite operator based in the Grand-Duchy.

"In order to start SES, the Luxembourg government guaranteed the first launch, because no insurance was willing to do it," said the Deputy Prime-Minister. 

"The guarantee represented 5% of the yearly government budget at that time, it was a "huge risk, he said, pointing out that the investment "paid out quite nicely".

Today the Luxembourg space sector amounts to 2% of the annual GDP and is one of the most dynamic in Europe.

Space mining law

Investing in space mining follows the same logic. And Luxembourg has taken the matter even further by passing the law on the mining and use of space resources last July. 

The legislation, which puts Luxembourg at the forefront of European countries and second in the world, after the US, brings "key benefits" and "certainty" to companies and investors, according to Schneider.

"We confer to companies the ownership of resources they extract in space," he said.

"We now provide a unique legal, regulatory and business environment to all Luxembourg-based companies active in space technologies", he added, arguing that the approach is consistent with international law and in particular with the Outer Space Treaty.

Nonetheless, some voices in the business and academic communities are calling for more clarity on the laws governing space mining and the boundaries defined by the 1967 space treaty.

International cooperation

Luxembourg is also collaborating with a number of countries on the exploration of space resources and Schneider explained that Luxembourg authorities are advocating for cooperation on legal and regulatory matters as well as research and development (R&D). 

Last June, Luxembourg signed a joined statement with ESA on future activities concerning missions to asteroids, related technologies and space resources exploration.

In October, Luxembourg signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Arab Emirates regarding the commercial exploration of space. Prior to that, a similar agreement was signed off with Portugal. 

At the end of November, Luxembourg will sign an agreement around space activities with Japan, during a State visit, while discussions have also reached an advanced stage with China. 

According to Schneider, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is also "willing to work with Luxembourg" at a European level.

 "We are joining forces to accelerate the development of new space technologies. Luxembourg is being recognised as an "innovation leader," he said.  

The Grand-Duchy will also deploy a Big Data Test Bed in the area of "Smart space" as part of a EU project in the field of Big Data enabled applications. 

More commercial players

On the commercial side, seven companies active in space exploration and space resources have settled in Luxembourg since the launch of the initiative, including US companies Deep Space Industries and  Planetary Resources as well as Tokyo-based ispace. 

Blue Horizon - a subsidiary of the German space company OHB, Kleos Space - owned by a UK-based company and Sweden-based Gomspace have also set up entities in Luxembourg. 

And the last one to join the local space ecosystem is Spire. Founded in 2012 in San Francisco, the satellite powered data company offers products for global ship tracking and high frequency weather data. Spire announced on November 15 it would open its European headquarters in Luxembourg and employs some 250 people. 

"As every company registered in Luxembourg, they have access to national R&D grants, as well as to ESA programmes and funds," explained Schneider.  


A 'win-win' situation

As Luxembourg is turning into the new space gateway for space exploration, the outcome of these activities are expected to be a 'win-win situation" for all. 

"We are embarking upon a new phase which I hope will take mankind to the next level of civilisation and prosperity," he added.

Besides, "there is a chance the official language in space will be Luxembourgish", Schneider said upon leaving the stage. 

So it turns out, conquering space will not only require specialised technical skills, it might also demand a higher number of Luxembourgish teachers. 

Quelle: Luxemburger Wort


Update: 18.04.2018


Luxembourg leads the trillion-dollar race to become the Silicon Valley of asteroid mining

In the 1980s the tiny European nation of Luxembourg arose out of almost nowhere to become a leader in the satellite communications industry. Now it's looking to the skies again, as it hopes to be the global leader in the nascent race to mine resources in outer space.

The prospect of asteroid mining, long the stuff of science fiction, is now being likened to a 21st-century gold rush. There's a quest for resources among the stars, and asteroids are the prime targets, either for the metals they contain that could influence Earth-bound commodity markets, or for the water inside them that can be distilled into rocket fuel for future missions into deep space. Two of the leading companies in the field have been operating for several years already: Deep Space Industries, based in Mountain View, California, and Planetary Resources, based in Redmond, Washington. Unlike the days of the Apollo missions, this new generation of exploration is being led by a private sector interested in going boldly into space and in making money.
The Planetary Resources' Arkyd 6 asteroid miner is expected to launch this year. A sensor on board will not only prospect asteroids but also deliver actionable intelligence of the Earth to various global markets.

That's where Luxembourg sees an opportunity to play host to entrepreneurs and start-ups with their sights on space, becoming the worldwide hub of the space mining industry in the process. Private space exploration is a brand new market with trillions of dollars in potential; the Federal Aviation Administration expects space tourism to be a $1 billion sector over the next several years. Meanwhile, noted experts like Neil deGrasse Tyson has said that the world's first trillionaire "will be the person who exploits the mineral content of metallic asteroids."


Asteroids, floating pieces of rock and metal that predominate between Mars and Jupiter, are veritable treasure chests, packed with gold, platinum, and alloys that are needed to produce modern technologies such as smartphones.

"Our goal is to put into place an overall framework for the exploration and commercial use of resources from 'celestial bodies' such as asteroids, or from the moon," said Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy.

Tax haven for space ventures 

Sandwiched by Germany, Belgium, and France, the country with a population of 582,000 and a per capita GDP of just over $101,000 is stable and largely politically neutral. Historically, it was a steel producer, but in more recent decades it is better known for private banking, low taxes, and, sometimes to the country's chagrin, as a tax haven; multinational companies use tiny Luxembourg for corporate tax avoidance much in the same way they use one of its neighbors, the Netherlands.

An adventurous and unproven enterprise like space mining requires the financial backing, legal frameworks, and favorable regulatory structures that allow the work to even take place. Luxembourg has expertise in that area, given its experience in the mid-1980s with the commercial satellite industry. Up until that decade, satellites in space were government-funded or government-mandated. That changed in the 1980s, and Luxembourg led the charge in the satellite communications industry when it launched Société Européenne des Satellites in 1985. Otherwise known as SES, it was Europe's first private satellite operator; today, Luxembourg's SES is the world's second-biggest commercial satellite operator.

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"Smaller countries can really make a big impression if they focus," said Peter Stibrany, chief strategist at Deep Space Industries, a VC-backed company seeking to process materials mined from asteroids wholly in space. "Luxembourg focused on satellite communications and made a huge success of it, and now they're focused on asteroid mining."

"Our goal is to put into place an overall framework for the exploration and commercial use of resources from 'celestial bodies' such as asteroids, or from the moon."-Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy

It started in 2016 when Luxembourg established the Space Resources initiative and earmarked $223 million of its national space budget to provide early-stage funding and grants to companies working toward space mining. In the event more money is needed, Luxembourg "will be able to provide that money," Schneider said at a press conference announcing the funding in June 2016.

Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources are already working closely with Luxembourg's government. Stibrany said the government contributed an undisclosed amount of R&D funding to Deep Space Industries. And in November 2016, Planetary Resources and Luxembourg struck a deal: $28 million in investment from the Grand Duchy in exchange for an undisclosed equity stake in the company. Planetary Resources doesn't disclose its total funding, but CEO Chris Lewicki said Luxembourg was "one of the largest investors" in the company's Series A round.

"They believe it is a foundational business that will grow," said Lewicki, a NASA veteran who was flight director for two Mars rover missions.


Both companies predict that as soon as the mid-2020s, water, hydrogen, oxygen, and precious metals will be able to be extracted, processed, and utilized, either as fuel for deep-space missions to Mars and beyond, or as commodities on Earth. A Goldman Sachs research report published last year noted that mining asteroids "could be more realistic than perceived," and cited figures from Planetary Resources calculating that the platinum found on an asteroid the size of one football field is worth anywhere between $25 billion and $50 billion.

The mechanics of actually mining an asteroid are still being worked out, but companies like Deep Space Industries envision a future where robotic harvesting spacecraft touch down on an asteroid's surface — already resource-mapped by tiny prospecting satellites — and extract the materials contained inside.

Government support

Perhaps even more important than the funding is the regulatory structure Luxembourg has set up. In 2017 it became the first European country to pass a law conferring to companies the ownership of any resources they extract from space. The U.S. has a similar law for commercial space exploration, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which became law in 2015. But while the U.S. law applies solely to people and companies that count as citizens, Luxembourg's law applies to any company with a Luxembourg address.

Luxembourg's jump into asteroid mining has drawn criticism. Speaking to The Guardian last September, UC Berkeley assistant professor of economics Gabriel Zucman — who studied under French economist Thomas Piketty — said Luxembourg's strategy of creating laws and making room for asteroid mining companies "is what being an offshore financial center means. It's not diversification. It's just extending the logic of being a tax haven to a new area."

In other words, Luxembourg isn't necessarily jumping into modern technology with its support of space mining — it's just pushing into a new industry to extend the laws of a terrestrial tax haven, safeguarded by a sovereign nation, to the land of E.T.

But Luxembourg shows no signs of slowing its movement into asteroid mining. Deputy Prime Minister Schneider said the country has "several more tools to further support and enable commercial space entities and space resources companies." Forthcoming is a homegrown space agency with an investment fund supported by the government and venture capitalists. And Schneider has already said Luxembourg is prepared to reimburse asteroid mining companies up to 45 percent of their R&D costs.

Asteroid mining companies will take all the help they can get.

"These things are not all in place yet. There's continuing work to make that happen," said Deep Space Industries' Stibrany. "It's extremely supportive to have a state with a government … to create the right environment for this sort of activity."

Quelle: CNBC

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