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The competition heats up: The government of Luxembourg today announced an initiative to establish a legal framework that will ensure property rights in space for private investors.
The Luxembourg Government announced a series of measures to position Luxembourg as a European hub in the exploration and use of space resources. Amongst the key steps undertaken, as part of the spaceresources.lu initiative, will be the development of a legal and regulatory framework confirming certainty about the future ownership of minerals extracted in space from Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) such as asteroids.
Luxembourg is the first European country to announce its intention to set out a formal legal framework which ensures that private operators working in space can be confident about their rights to the resources they extract, i.e. rare minerals from asteroids. Such a legal framework will be worked out in full consideration of international law. Luxembourg is eager to engage with other countries on this matter within a multilateral framework.
The announcement is a bit vague about what exactly Luxembourg really plans to do. For example, it is unclear if this framework will only apply to Luxembourg citizens, or will be used to bring the private efforts from other countries to Luxembourg (the more likely scenario). It also does not tell us how the initiative will deal with the UN Outer Space Treaty, which essentially outlaws countries from establishing their own legal framework in space. Individuals can supposedly own private property in space under that treaty, but no country can claim territory or impose its own legal framework on any territory, thus making any private property claims unclear and weak.