Luxembourg establishes space agency and new fund

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PARIS — The government of Luxembourg continued work to expand its role in the global space economy Sept. 12 by formally establishing a national space agency, a move designed in part to ensure the effort continues after an upcoming election.

In a ceremony in Luxembourg City, Étienne Schneider, deputy prime minister and minister of the economy, formally announced the creation of the Luxembourg Space Agency. The agency will be led by Marc Serres, previously the head of space affairs at the Ministry of the Economy.

Unlike traditional national space agencies, which support spacecraft missions and scientific research, the Luxembourg Space Agency will focus primarily on building up the country’s space industry as well as supporting education and workforce development.

Schneider noted that Luxembourg’s recent efforts, most notably the SpaceResources.lu project to attract companies working in the nascent space resources field, had led to 20 countries establishing a presence in the country. “All this is why it’s so important to me to launch today this Luxembourg Space Agency in order to professionalize our approach to this new community,” he said.

Serres said that the agency will work with a wide range of other organizations, both within the government and the private sector, to meet the agency’s goals. “The agency will be well-equipped to support industry in their daily challenges, and it leads to the most favorable environment for this sector to continue to grow,” he said, describing its four “strategic lines” as expertise, innovation, skills and funding.

That last item will include a new fund for supporting space companies. Schneider announced that the space agency will work with other government agencies and the private sector to establish the Luxembourg Space Fund, valued at 100 million euros ($116 million). The fund, according to a government statement, will “provide equity funding for new space companies with ground-breaking ideas and technology.”

Only part of the new fund will involve government money. “It will be a public-private partnership, where the government will take a share of 30 to 40 percent,” Schneider said.

The Luxembourg Space Agency will have about 12 people on its staff initially, according to Schneider, with more likely to be added in the future. The agency’s offices will be within those of the Ministry of the Economy, although he said he expected the agency to later move into its own facility.

Among the companies that established operations in Luxembourg is iSpace, a Japanese company developing lunar landers. The company has about 15 employees in Luxembourg, said Kyle Acierno, iSpace’s managing director for Europe, in a recent interview. Those employees are split roughly evenly between engineering and business development.

Acierno welcomed the new space agency. “With the development of this new space agency, we really see the opportunity to have more coordination of all the space activities happening in Luxembourg,” he said. “I think the space agency will provide the opportunity to develop a roadmap and implementation strategy to help some of these activities come to fruition.”

Another benefit of the agency, he said, is to help ensure that the ongoing space initiatives survive the current government. Luxembourg is holding parliamentary elections Oct. 14 with no guarantee that Schneider will remain in office.

“The activities right now, especially in regards to the space resources initiative, are the vision of Étienne Schneider,” Acierno said. Creating a space agency could provide long-term sustainability for those efforts independent of who is in government.

At the announcement of the agency, Schneider acknowledged that was a factor. “For me, it was important to put all this into place before the elections of Oct. 14 so that the community is more or less sure about the fact that this will continue even after the election and even if I might not be there any more,” he said. “I think it would be a huge mistake to stop this venture after the election.”