Luxembourg to invest $200 million in space mining

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

The competition heats up: The government of Luxembourg has budgeted $200 million to invest in private proposals to mine asteroids for profit.

This government commitment is different than other government space projects in that they are not creating a “space program”, they are literally acting as a venture capitalist, putting their money into private efforts in exchange for profit.


  • Wayne

    I’m intrigued as to how anyone plans to get these rare minerals, back to Earth? As in, ‘industrial-scale’ amounts.
    (I’m fuzzy on the actual amounts of truly “rare,” rare-earth type stuff is used in electronics on a yearly basis, as opposed to platinum or other valuable metals/substances.)

    –Fully applaud locating valuable resources in Space–just wondering how we utilize them.

    In this situation I would trend toward advocating more & deeper geologic exploration of Earth.

  • PeterF

    I suspect that they will find that rare minerals found in space are far more valuable for manufacturing in space than dropping them into a gravity well. Perhaps a LaGrange point will become the the shipyard with a “space dock” where the stars ship enterprise will be built?

  • wayne

    Interestingly– did a quick price search on “Rare Earth’s,” and a lot of the info is behind pay-walls and/or denominated in Chinese-yuan. (all the more reason to dig down further under our own feet!)
    More terrifying prospect— slaving away at the “ore-processing Center” on Deep Space 9. (Which plays into my theory that “mining valuable minerals in Future Star Trek World appears to be largely a coerced manual-operation carried out in horrendous circumstances.”)
    [Edward– yeah, there are a few instances where that is not the case, but that Theme pops up way tooo much in ST!]
    (They never did explain were the ore came from, or where they shipped it.)

    –I’ve just never heard the details of how we turn the discovery into raw-product. Refining, separating, & concentrating these substances can be a complex endeavor.
    That being said– I generally support all free-market driven Space Stuff.

  • Edward

    I think the exciting topic in the article is that landlocked, Spaceport-less, tiny Luxembourg intends to be among the top 10 space faring nations.

    Since being a launch providing country is not in the cards for them, they are turning to the efficient and profitable use of space resources. Already, they have mastered the use of the geostationary-orbit resource.

  • D K Rögnvald Williams

    Sounds like a publicity stunt to gain attention for a micro-nation.

  • “Sounds like a publicity stunt to gain attention for a micro-nation.”

    No, it likely is not. Luxembourg has invested heavily in satellite communications, helping to found the company SES (which by the way has been one of the biggest supporters of SpaceX and is begging the company to launch one of their satellites on a reused first stage). SES is also one of the more successful satellite companies, making money for themselves and Luxembourg.

    They are very serious. Do not dismiss them lightly.

  • Wayne

    Been doing some cursory searching on prices of various Rare Earth metals; (there’s no formal “exchange”) — appears to range from $150 to $6,000 per kilogram, across 10 different elements.
    –If anyone is going to retrieve & refine this stuff from Space, they are going to have to deal with that price range, in the here and now.
    -Undoubtedly, we are going to find more uses for these metals, and personally I like Space, but when it comes to mining resources I’d advocate we further explore the earth in the intermediate time frame.
    That being said, it appears the folks in Luxemburg are being wise & at least trying to diversify their future bets.

    As for the “Billionaire’s in Space” thread — more power to them!

    “Individual Ambition Serves the Common Good.”
    ― Adam Smith 1776

  • Cotour


    Rare earth material as I understand it are more or less abundant on earth, its the cost and mess of sorting them out and refining them that makes them sooo expensive. The Chinese in their drive to dominate the world have attempted to corner the market regarding them, they have no restrictions on processing and the pollution that it might cause.

  • Joe

    No EPA to deal with in space, I can not imagine what it will cost to mine precious and rare earth minerals in space, let alone figuring out which space rock has what elements you want. This looks like we the public will have to fund this giant boondoggle!

  • “This looks like we the public will have to fund this giant boondoggle!”

    Joe: Are you a citizen of Luxembourg? Because they are the only citizens whose government is involved. Moreover, if I was a Luxembourg citizen I would generally be pleased, as their government has made sure that its investments in private enterprise have provided a good return on the dollar, for the taxpayers.

    As you know, I am not in favor of big government space projects. However, if a government has to have a space program, I really can’t think of a better one than Luxembourg’s, where they simply view themselves as venture capitalists, investing the money in what they think are the most promising new space companies that are also the most likely to return some profits to the government.

  • Cotour

    More on terrestrial rare earths, $1 trillion dollars looks like a very strong reason for a country to become involved in the politics of the region in order to control it before someone else controls it.

  • Joe

    To answer Roberts question, no, US citizen, I love private space, if this were the U.S., I could see this turning into corruption very easily, picking winners and losers just like the renewables programs. My earlier comment was not well thought out.

  • I agree with you. In the U.S. we would quickly see this turn into a rip-off of the taxpayer. In Luxembourg, however, things are different, especially because the country is so small.

  • Edward

    There may be a lack of imagination on the part of some of the people commenting. Just because we do not see what they see does not mean it is not a valid vision. The iPhone was once a mere glimmer in Steve Jobs’s eye, now it is duplicated around the world.

    A good reason for mining materials on astronomical bodies is to avoid the expense of launching those materials into space. There are processes and abilities in zero g that are difficult to duplicate on Earth, and some alloys and crystals may be more easily and less expensively formed on orbit than on Earth.

    Right now, turbine blades for jet engines are a high value item. If they, and other parts, can be made better in space, then it may well be worth getting the raw materials from space, too.

    The Space Shuttle and the ISS have performed many experiments, but they are few compared to the potential for experimentation and the potential for manufacturing exotic materials. I believe that there are several visionaries who see a potential for great things in space, and they are looking for partners and cooperative governments to help, not hinder, their future prosperity. Luxembourg seems to be one of those cooperative governments, and it intends for its people to prosper along with those visionaries.

  • LocalFluff

    Luxemburgs relative leadership in communication satellites was ultimately founded upon Radio Luxemburg, popular after the war, right? Radio was a perfect way for a small country to export to a continental market.

  • Edward

    As LocalFluff points out, radio may be a perfect way for a small country to export to the rest of the continent. Since there is no more available land on the planet Earth then a move space-ward may be the perfect way to expand influence and power and to gain natural resources that are lacking in a 1,000 square-mile country. These are major reasons why so many countries are vying to be spacefaring nations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *