Luxembourg, Japan team up to explore and mine space resources

Luxembourg seems to be in a rush to become Europe’s hub for space mining, as it announced Wednesday yet another deal aimed at boosting boost the exploration and the commercial utilization of resources from near earth objects, such as asteroids.

The fresh agreement, this time with Japan, is part of Luxembourg’s SpaceResources.lu initiative launched last year to promote the mining of celestial bodies for minerals.

The five-year cooperation agreement between Luxembourg and Japan covers the exchange of information and expertise on the matter and intends to further enhance collaboration in the field of space activities, the parties said in a statement.

The five-year cooperation agreement covers the exchange of information and expertise on the exploration and mining of out-of-earth resources.

“The exchange of information may cover all the issues of the exploration and commercial utilization of space resources, including legal, regulatory, technological, economic, and other aspects,” they noted.

Japan is not the first country to sign this kind of agreement with Luxembourg. Previously, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates had gotten on board too, joining dozens of firms to have either settled in the tiny country or signed cooperation deals with it about space mining.

Some of the companies that have signed accords with Luxembourg include US-based companies Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, as well as Japanese ispace.

With Deep Space, Luxembourg is jointly developing Prospector-X, a small and experimental spacecraft that test technologies for prospecting and mining near Earth asteroids after 2020.

With Planetary Resources the link is mostly financial, as the country recently invested more than $28 million in the firm to help launch its first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by 2020.

Luxembourg, Japan team up to explore and mine space resources

(Left to right) Etienne Schneider, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy; Masaji Matsuyama, Minister of State for Space Policy.

Earlier this year, the nation —one of the euro zone's wealthiest — passed a law defining the conditions companies must fulfill to obtain a licence for launching a space mining mission. Together with the U.S., it's now one of the two countries in the world to have laws giving corporations ownership of materials mined in space, but only after they've been extracted.

While Luxembourg foray into out-of-earth mining is fairly new, the country has a long-standing space industry, which has played a significant role in the development of satellite communications.

Currently, the nation generates about 2% of its annual gross domestic product — which reach almost $61 billion in 2016 — from the space industry,

Geologists believe asteroids are packed with iron ore, nickel and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth, making up a market valued in the trillions of dollars, and The Grand Duchy is definitely after them.