No fear of asteroids – Luxembourg starts asteroid mining plan !

Some countries are developing programs of early warning of asteroids. Luxembourg would like to change asteroids from the threat into a source of profit.

Maybe this fact is not well known, but Luxembourg with population of slightly over 520000 is quite important player on satellite market. With LuxSpace, operator of constellation of probe satellites and first of all with SES company, is one of most developed European countries in terms of percentage share of space industry in national economy.

It should not be surprising that government of Luxembourg sees potential in exploring space. On 3 February 2016, it was announced that new law of space mining and exploration will be established. According to Vice Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Etienne Schneider, new law will be aimed to encourage foreign and domestic investors to open new companies focused on space exploration and space mining. He stated:

“Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources, on lifeless rocks hurtling through space, without damaging natural habitats... We will support the long-term economic development of new, innovative activities in the space and satellite industries as a key high-tech sector for Luxembourg. At first, our aim is to carry out research in this area, which at a later stage can lead to more concrete activities in space.”

First three companies had already announced their will to invest in Luxembourg and to open their affiliates. According to Etienne Schneider, companies like Deep Space Industries, SpaceX and Planetary Resources are interested in further cooperation with authorities. Government is seriously considering inviting potential partners from China, Europe and USA to join advisory board. Etienne Schneider is counting that companies representing space mining would like to establish their R&D centers in Luxembourg instead USA. Luxembourg authorities are not going to limit their supporting space mining ventures only to formal ways. At present government is able to reimburse up to 45 % of costs investments for research and development. Moreover, as Etienne Schneider stated, authorities are able to invest in particular ventures:

“We can do this by different means: We can invest by different government investment funds we own, and also the government’s investment bank. We have all these means of supporting companies and of course the Luxembourg financial industry is interested in supporting them.”

It means that both SES and SpaceX could establish new company based in Luxemburg for investing in new, potentially risky area. Risk could be reduced with strong support of government and give profits for present activity of both companies. It is worth to mention that in the end of 2015, on 16 November, Congress passed U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (read more here). It gave green light for further space mining by describing and protecting ownership of recovered resources. Now, every possessed resource is property of person or company who was able to gather it. Combining very favorable law regulations in USA and Luxembourg, SpaceX and SES could try starting a business in another area launch services and telecommunication. Particularly SpaceX could consider initiative of Luxembourg government as promising for their ultimate objective. Possessing water from asteroids could be one of solutions which could make travel to Mars possible, of course in spite of fact mining minerals or metals.

Cooperation between SpaceX and main satellite operator and pillar of the Luxembourg space industry, SES S.A. already took a long time and seems to be very profitable for both. SES is one of main customers for launch services offered by SpaceX, and for sure this cooperation, with new possibilities created by Luxembourg government, surely will let to expand it in following years.

SES S.A. is Luxembourg based Telecommunications Company. It was established in 1985 and is mainly focused on broadcasting services (TV satellite, DTH). First satellite operated by Luxembourg based SES S.A., was launched in December 1988. It was Astra-1A, based on A-4000 bus by Lockheed Martin, launched on atop of Ariane rocket. Since then SES became one of most innovative telecommunications company in Europe. It was developing various innovations in satellite broadcasting like DTH transmission, co-location of satellites (placing two GEO satellites as close as possible as they are using single orbital slot - SES try this with Astra satellites and 19.2°E slot), free-to-air broadcast neighborhoods (transmitting unencrypted TV and radio signal), HDTV, 3DTV and UHD (Ultra High Definition TV). SES combined both their recently developed technologies and since 2015 is offering first European UHD channel without encryption thanks to free-to-air technology. In spite of development of broadcasting technologies, SES is also taking care of keeping their constellation of satellites up to date. On 3 December 2013, 22:41 GMT on atop of SpaceX Falcon-9 1.1v new satellite, SES-8, was launched. It was first satellite developed and launched fully in commercial sector. SES is also one of the biggest and more important customers for SpaceX. Both companies are representing new generation companies of space industry, highly innovative, supported with aggressive marketing actions and with ambitious goals.