Luxembourg’s space law experts are now working on drafting the legislative framework for the country to start the first asteroid mining operations. The announcement was made by the state’s economy ministry on Friday.
The new legislation, which will come into effect next year, is designed to create a legal framework for investments in space mining. Luxembourg said that the new law will grant operators rights to materials they manage to harvest in space.
The state will issue special licenses, while the government will supervise operations. Space operators’ rights and obligations will be established by the European state based on the Outer Space Treaty.
Luxembourg, which has heavily invested in satellite services industry in recent years, is the second state to draft legislation for space mining operations. The U.S. created the first similar law in 2015, but the European version is more business orientated
Luxembourg will allow both local operators and foreign companies running their business in the duchy to run mining operations in outer space. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel announced that his country will take the necessary action for an international regulatory framework.
For start, the tiny country’s government will pour $226 million in R&D focused on space mining. Officials said that two U.S. companies morphed in “legal entities” in the country waiting for the new law to be enacted.
The two entities are Deep Space Industries, which is already developing a spacecraft that can conduct space mining operations, and Planetary Resources, in which Google’s Larry Page gas a high stake.
Space mining operations will target near Earth objects also known as NEOs, which are asteroids displaced from the main asteroid belt whizzing past Earth in their journey around the Sun.
Space mining companies will build spacecrafts that can land on moving NEOs to harvest raw materials and even process them on the spot. The most resource-rich NEOs are type C asteroids.
Type C asteroids are rich in water, ferrous minerals and other valuable materials. Yet, the mining operations won’t involve humans, as the activity is extremely dangerous. Instead, robots will do all the hard work.
Scientists hope that the heavy investments made by the nascent space mining industry will also benefit space exploration. For instance, moving asteroids could be used as places to refuel or find water for manned missions.
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