AIM ESA Cubesats Asteroids
Luxembourg deputy prime minister and minister of the economy Etienne Schneider said Feb. 14 that Luxembourg is displeased that ESA's Asteroid Impact Mission didn't garner enough funding, and that his country will seek to revive talks regarding the mission. Credit: ESA and

As Luxembourg’s leaders embrace space mining, others in the country are more skeptical.

A bill supported by Étienne Schneider, the country’s deputy prime minister and minister for economy, would create a legal framework for companies to have rights to space resources they extract, similar to U.S. law.

However, an opinion published earlier this month by the country’s quasi-second legislative chamber, the Council of State, expressed doubts about the bill, questioning whether it complies with the Outer Space Treaty.

Schneider is expected to address those concerns in a revision of the bill. [Delano]

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An Atlas 5 successfully launched a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the space station Tuesday. The Atlas 5 lifted off from Cape Canaveral on schedule at 11:11 a.m. Eastern after a countdown free of any major issues. The rocket released the Cygnus into low Earth orbit 21 minutes after launch. The Cygnus, carrying more than 3,450 kilograms of cargo, is scheduled to arrive at the station early Saturday, after Thursday’s launch and docking of a Soyuz spacecraft. [SpaceNews]

Included in the Cygnus are 28 cubesats that will study a neglected region of the upper atmosphere. The satellites, part of a European project called QB50, will probe the thermosphere, a region too high to be studied in situ by balloons or aircraft but too low for most satellites. That lack of data has led some scientists to call that part of the upper atmosphere the “ignorosphere.” The 28 QB50 cubesats, which will be deployed from the ISS in about a month, will be joined by eight more launched on an Indian rocket in May. [New Scientist]

While the launch was a success, a much-hyped 360-degree video of the launch was a dud. NASA announced last week that people would be able to get a 360-degree view of the launch live from cameras installed on the launch pad, providing a rare perspective of a launch. However, the live feed was interrupted about four minutes before launch and did not resume until after liftoff. The archived video does preserve some parts of the launch in “a few herky-jerky frames.” [GeekWire]

Planet confirmed that Google is taking a stake in the satellite imagery company as part of the deal to acquire Terra Bella. Planet said Tuesday that it closed a deal announced in February to acquire Terra Bella from Google after receiving the needed regulatory approvals. The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal at the time it was announced, beyond Google agreeing to a multi-year contract to purchase imagery from Planet, but Planet confirmed that Google took an equity stake of undisclosed size in Planet as part of the agreement. Planet says it’s now working to integrate the high-resolution images provided by Terra Bella’s SkySat spacecraft with its medium-resolution imagery from Planet’s constellation of nearly 150 smallsats. [SpaceNews]

More than a decade after Indian scientists recommended the country pursue human spaceflight, its space agency has made little progress. At a November 2006 meeting organized by the Indian space agency ISRO, scientists recommended that the country develop a human spaceflight capability. In the intervening decade, though, ISRO has made little progress on such a program beyond demonstrating some technologies for spacecraft reentry. The head of ISRO said that satellite programs to provide communications and other services remain a higher priority. [PTI]

The Canadian government announced Tuesday a new space advisory board to develop a “fresh vision” for Canada’s role in space. The 10-person board includes scientists, businesspeople and a former president of the Canadian Space Agency. The board held its first meeting last week and will start a “cross-Canada consultation process” this Friday in Ottawa. [SpaceQ]

A former NASA administrator supports DARPA’s work in satellite servicing. In an op-ed, former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, now chairman of Schafer Corp., said he led a review team for DARPA that concluded it was important to develop a capability to inspect and service satellites. DARPA is proceeding with such a program, but is facing a lawsuit from a company developing its own system that wants to halt the DARPA program. That suit, Griffin argued, “is a mistake — one that seriously threatens American space security.” [SpaceNews]

A software company founded by a two-time space tourist is being acquired by Microsoft. Intentional Software said Tuesday it will be acquired by Microsoft for an undisclosed sum. Charles Simonyi, a former Microsoft engineer who led development of applications like Word and Excel, founded the company after leaving Microsoft in 2002. He hired as CEO of the company Eric Anderson, the co-founder and chairman of Space Adventures, the space tourism company that brokered Simonyi’s two flights to the ISS as a space tourist. Simonyi will rejoin Microsoft as a technical fellow as part of the deal. [Seattle Times]

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...