A law to mine asteroids
Luxembourg’s new space law guarantees private companies the right to resources harvested in outer space in accordance with international law.
The Luxembourg Government has just adopted a draft law ensuring that private operators working in space can be confident about their rights to the resources they extract in outer space. This legal and regulatory framework is a key action of an overall strategy to be progressively implemented within the SpaceResources.lu initiative for the exploration and commercial use of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids.
Article 1 of the draft law provides that space resources are capable of being appropriated in accordance with the Outer Space Treaty. The law has been formulated in a way as to specifically grant companies the right to extract resources, such as minerals, water and other resources, in particular on asteroids. However, the law does not suggest to either establish or imply in any way sovereignty over a territory or over a celestial body. Only the appropriation of space resources is addressed in the legal framework.
The draft law also lays down the regulations for the authorisation and the supervision of missions concerning space resources utilisation, including both the exploration and use of such resources. Whoever intends to undertake a space resources utilisation mission will be required to obtain an authorisation to do so, for each specific and determined mission.
The legislation is expected to enter into effect in early 2017.
Luxembourg leads the sector
According to Minister of the Economy Étienne Schneider, ‘Luxembourg’s new space legislation confirms the strong commitment to become a European hub for the exploration and use of space resources.’ The minister announced furthermore that negotiations were underway to formalise relationships with around twenty companies and entrepreneurs originating both from Europe and from outside of Europe: ‘Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, two renowned U.S. companies with visionary ambitions for exploration and use of space resources, have already both established their European subsidiary in the Grand Duchy, with Luxembourg to become one of the main shareholders of Planetary Resources, Inc. Both companies started hiring highly qualified workers to build up economic and technological substance to firmly anchor their presence in Luxembourg.’
The law is based on the findings of a study on legal and regulatory aspects for the utilization of space resources conducted by the University of Luxembourg, under the overall direction of Prof. Dr. Mahulena Hofmann (University of Luxembourg), and in cooperation with renowned space law experts in the fields of national and international space law and policy, such as Prof. Dr. Frans G. von der Dunk (European Centre for Space Law, ECSL), Prof. Dr. Fabio Tronchetti (University of Mississippi School of Law) and Prof. Dr. André Prüm (University of Luxembourg).
Jean-Louis Schiltz, Guest Professor at the University of Luxembourg and attorney in private practice, advised the Luxembourg Government in establishing the legal framework. ‘Luxembourg is showing once more that innovation through law can be a key trigger for innovation through technology to really take off and to produce encouraging results.’(Source: press release by the Ministry of the Economy)