Aiming for the moon, landing amongst the stars

The Luxembourg law of 20 July 2017 on space mining (the "Law") is one of the pillars of the Luxembourg government's initiative "", launched in February 2016. This initiative consists in a series of measures aiming to position Luxembourg as European hub for space exploration and the use space of resources.

Luxembourg is the first European country to provide a legal framework and very importantly legal certainty for private operators in respect of the space resources they might extract.

What are space resources? 

Space resources are commonly defined as abiotic resources situated outside of our atmosphere that can be extracted. This definition should include minerals or water, but doesn't include orbital positions or frequency.

According to the major part of the legal literature on the matter, space resources should be exploited in line with international law by analogy to the rules governing the exploitation of maritime resources. This would mean that space resources can be acquired and owned. Celestial bodies and asteroids, however, cannot.

That being said, the Parliament has decided not to define the "space resources" in the Law. The concept being rather broad, one could consider that an extensive range of materials will be subject to the Law's regulation.

Who can extract/exploit space resources?

Any corporate person :

  • being a public limited company (société anonyme), a corporate partnership limited by shares (société en commandite par actions), a limited liability company (société à responsabilité limitée) or an European company having its registered office in Luxembourg

  • duly licensed under the terms of the Law can extract or exploit space resources.

A licence?

The minister in charge of space is empowered to grant space mining licenses. The Law sets out conditions similar to those set out in the law on the financial sector and hence the administration will be able to rely on their experience in this respect. In summary, applicants will have to demonstrate that they have sufficient experience and a viable business plan. If the conditions of the Law are complied with, the applicant will be granted a limited duration licence.

A lot of asteroids to avoid?

The Law is quite visionary and sets out a flexible framework for space miners. However, some issues are not solved and will probably be discussed in the course of 2018. The lack of definition of "space resources" is one of them and gives an important place to interpretation. Moreover, the question of the use of space resources shall also be considered: what are we able to do with those resources? Do we need them at all? No doubts that the pioneers already have their own ideas – we just have to wait and see…

Anyhow, the next time you are looking at the stars, don't forget that Luxembourg is more than ever present in space!

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