Luxembourg government to continue commercial space initiatives after election
LOS ANGELES — A Luxembourg government official said Nov. 4 that he doesn’t think there will be any changes to the country’s commercial space initiatives as a result of a recent parliamentary election there.
Speaking at the International Moon Village Workshop & Symposium here, Pierre Franck, consul general and executive director of the Luxembourg Trade and Investment Office in San Francisco, downplayed any effects an Oct. 14 election would have on the SpaceResources.lu effort despite uncertainty about how the new government will be structured.
That election resulted in no political party gaining a majority in the 60-seat Chamber of Deputies. A coalition of three parties that ran the previous government is in discussions about forming a new coalition government.
“It seems that the existing coalition will be reinstated, but the discussions are only starting between the three parties that form this coalition. We expect them to be fruitful and to provide political continuity,” Franck said.
The leader of one of those parties, Étienne Schneider of the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party, has been the political figure most closely linked to the SpaceResources.lu effort. Schneider, as deputy prime minister and minister of the economy in the previous government, was the leading promoter of the initiative, speaking about it at events in the country and elsewhere.
Under SpaceResources.lu, Luxembourg actively encouraged entrepreneurial space companies to set up offices in the country. The initiative also provided funding to those companies, starting with those in the emerging space resources field but expanding to others, such as smallsat constellation developer Spire.
In an effort to provide a more permanent foundation for the initiative, the Luxembourg government formally established a national space agency in September. The Luxembourg Space Agency will continue efforts to support commercial space activities in the country, including helping establish a Luxembourg Space Fund, valued at 100 million euros ($114 million), for investing in companies.
Even if the new coalition government is different from the preceding one, Franck said he thought the space initiative would continue. “I think the space resources initiative has gained so much momentum that, whatever the government will be, it will be committed to pursue it,” he said. “I cannot imagine any minister of the economy, in charge of the economy, not using this opportunity to continue developing this sector.”
That initiative has been quietly evolving, with less of an emphasis on the space resources field. One of the initiative’s early investments was in Planetary Resources, the U.S. company that announced plans in 2012 to develop a series of spacecraft to prospect and eventually extract resources, such as water ice, from near Earth asteroids.
In November 2016, Planetary Resources announced an investment of 25 million euros in the company from SpaceResources.lu, split between grants and an equity stake. “The Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg becoming a shareholder in Planetary Resources seals our partnership and lays the ground of the principles of our cooperation in the years to come, while demonstrating the government’s strong commitment to support the national space sector by attracting innovative activities in space resource utilization and other related areas,” Schneider said in a statement announcing the deal.
The Luxembourg Times reported Nov. 2 that in late October the government sold its shares in Planetary Resources, which constituted a 10 percent stake in the company. The government didn’t disclose the value of the sale or to whom it sold the shares. Planetary Resources announced Oct. 31 it was being acquired by ConsenSys, a blockchain technology company.