The fifth edition of the "Space Resources Week", a large international conference devoted to the exploration and use of resources in space, started on Wednesday 19 April 2023 at Luxexpo The Box.
More than 1,300 people (including 400 in-person) registered to follow the various seminars and speeches of this event organised in the form of a three-day hybrid conference. On the opening morning, there were 150 people present on site and 900 live streaming.
Organised by the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC), the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), the conference aims to bring together representatives, of space agencies, research institutes, startups and industry (terrestrial and space). This year, the conference series focuses on the synergies necessary for the development of an inclusive ecosystem for the use of space resources, as well as on the means of accelerating the use of space for the benefit of humanity.
Luxembourg’s Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot, delivered the opening speech, stating that “space is all about corporation and collaboration”. He described Luxembourg’s mission as one of connecting different space agencies and the space sector with other research, helping to build the space industry by forging connections and “fostering collaboration”. He noted the importance of space traffic management, debris management and the sustainability and inclusion of the space economy, highlighting that he is a “strong believer that space can help developing countries to improve”, concerning agriculture solutions and addressing droughts and floods. “We must make sure that smaller and medium countries also benefit,” the minister said, adding that smaller developing countries also need to get their own space legislation.
In the context of synergies, Minister Fayot expressed his excitement about the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Korea in 2022, aiming to promote and organise an exchange of information, personnel and expertise between the two countries in the areas of space science, technology and applications.
Minister Fayot’s speech was followed by addresses and presentations by several international speakers.
Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, addressed the audience via a recording, stating: “We are aiming to push the limits of what we know to be possible.” He added that NASA is proud to partner with Luxembourg and other nations to “drive an economy that will benefit all of humankind.”
Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General, highlighted, also via recorded message, the importance of space commercialisation, stressing the need for a “suitable and shared legal framework” and the opportunity for further achievements with the aim of opening up new markets.
Several in-person addresses followed. Bernhard Hufenbach, ESA Head of the Strategic Planning Office, presented the need for a fully commercial approach in view of developing the necessary, radically different tactics to efficient ways of transporting goods and humans into space, and for developing and operating infrastructure in this area for science and applications.
Next, ESRIC Director Dr Kathryn Hadler, presented the European Space Resources Innovation Centre, pointing out that their small, diverse team of sixteen comprises twelve nationalities, is 44% female and based in Esch-Belval. The organisation has been taking part in research projects since 2018 and is involved in a commercialisation pillar involving startup support programmes.
Gerald Sanders, Lead of NASA’s In-Space Resource Utilisation (ISRU), mentioned the release of their moon to mars objective (M2M) and introduced the challenge and necessity of reaching these set objectives sustainably in a circular economy. He pointed out that their timeline delayed because of budget issues, leading to the decision to focus on the extraction of metal and oxygen instead of water. He stressed that full-scale production is the end goal, with the priorities of undertaking those demonstrations on other planets, gaining experience on earth, finding and mapping resources and responsible practices on the lunar surface.
Dr Kyeong Ja Kim, researcher at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources, presented an introduction of the KGRS, a system that collects data every ten seconds, measuring data such a ray bursts and solar activity. This led to the discovery of a dying massive star or the birth of a blackhole in October 2022. She clarified that this technology enables researchers to monitor radiation and to study space weathering, and she illustrated her findings with high-resolution photographs from deep space. She noted the future project target of locating water and volatiles.
The morning session ended with an address by ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, a German national, who pointed out that from space, borders are invisible, thus underlining the importance of synergies in view of space exploration.
Space Resources Week is taking place as a hybrid event from Wednesday 19 to Friday 21 April 2023. The detailed programme can be viewed at https://www.spaceresourcesweek.lu/.