A strong R&D culture and cross-sector co-operation are key to a thriving ecosystem that stimulates innovation and accelerates the evolution of business in space
Until recently, space exploration was the sole preserve of governments and national space agencies. But changes in public policy and priorities are increasingly driving the emergence of new and viable business models. The space industry is rapidly evolving with the involvement of private companies at the same time that space activities are becoming increasingly commercial. Meanwhile, major technological shifts are disrupting traditional industrial and business models, reducing the cost of accessing and utilising space and its resources.
Technological advances such as small and micro-satellites, reusable launchers and more efficient propulsion systems, together with the emergence of new business models are reducing the cost of developing and deploying space-based technology.
Luxembourg has embraced policies encouraging the creation of new space businesses. Drawing on the success of its commercial satellite business, the Grand Duchy is positioning itself as a European incubator for entrepreneurial space activities, including, but not limited to the exploration and exploitation of space resources.
SPACE RESEARCH IN LUXEMBOURG
The objective of space research in Luxembourg is to increase the R&D capabilities required by the local space industry.
Luxembourg conducts space research at the University of Luxembourg and the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST). The University of Luxembourg focuses mainly on autonomous vehicles, robotics, space communications and system critical software, whereas LIST focuses on material sciences, biological sciences, and Earth observing.
In addition to these established research areas in Luxembourg, two new areas will play an important role for future space industry/business, i.e. space resources. Space engineering will support many near-term space industrial needs. Space resources will retire the risks and establish Luxembourg expertise and intellectual property for the emerging off-world economy.
COMMITMENT TO INNOVATION
The country’s legal and regulatory framework is a key tool to support the long-term development of innovative space industry activities. The Grand Duchy is the first European country to provide a legal foundation for the exploration and use of space resources, giving private operators confidence about their legal rights over resources they extract.
Luxembourg’s thriving space ecosystem is nurtured by a forward-looking policy culture facilitating the interaction of the country’s legal and regulatory, scientific and technological environment with its entrepreneurial and financial activity. For decades, successive governments have prioritised drive and commitment to expand the sector and propel it forward. Companies with strong commercial ideas have access to a full range of support – finance, premises, research resources and an international network of contacts and potential partnerships.
DIGITAL INNOVATION AND SPACE
Conscious of the opportunities offered by a data-driven economy and the importance of developing exascale supercomputing facilities in Europe, Luxembourg is leading a major European project involving high-performance computing and big data-enabled applications, in order to develop a sustainable ecosystem around digital capabilities.
The ability to combine massive computing power with data generated by multiple sources including satellites and space exploration as well as the Internet of Things will create new applications with the potential for significant economic change. The result promises substantial benefits in areas including environmental risk monitoring, water resource management and intelligent support of agriculture.
This is why the Grand Duchy is leading a European big data-enabled ‘smart space’ and
e-mobility testbed involving partners from more than one industrial sector.
BUILDING THE FUTURE SPACE ECONOMY
Awareness and experience of the benefits of the ongoing expansion of Earth’s economic scope toward ever more distant frontiers, the accelerating pace of technological progress and the emergence of privately-funded commercial start-ups in the ‘new space’ sector have encouraged Luxembourg to explore more deeply the long-term economic potential of space.
Luxembourg launched SpaceResources.lu in 2016 as the next step in its drive to develop a cutting-edge space industry. The initiative aims to establish the Grand Duchy as a centre for the exploration and utilisation of space resources by fostering advanced research activities and technological capabilities. One example is the harvesting of water from asteroids and the Moon for use in space as propellant for satellites or spaceships, or to support human life.
The initiative has already attracted extensive interest from international companies and opened up new development and co-operation perspectives for the national space sector. SpaceResources.lu highlights the commitment of the Luxembourg government to promote the Grand Duchy as a hub for innovative space projects involving advanced technologies and the priority it places on developing national expertise.