Credit: © ESA

Luxembourg yesterday unveiled its National Action Plan 2020-24 for space science and technology, which foresees a contribution of €198.51 million to European Space Agency (ESA) initiatives.

During the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on the Economy, Consumer Protection and Space on Wednesday, Luxembourg's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, Étienne Schneider, presented the national action plan for space science and technology for the period 2020-24. The plan originated in 2005 when Luxembourg became a member state of the ESA.

As part of its efforts to ensure the continuity of the economic development policy of the space sector, Luxembourg's main objective for the period 2020-24 is to position itself on the technologies of the future, develop the ecosystem and encourage the development of recurring high added value products, applications and services offering business opportunities. The fields covered are telecommunications and applications in general, as well as the use of space resources.

Within the framework of the satellite telecommunications research programme (ARTES), a large part of the Luxembourg contribution will be dedicated to the following strategic lines: "Space resources for 5G", "Space systems for safety and security (4S)" and "Optical Telecommunications - ScyLight". The 5G strategic line is considered vital for the future of space telecommunications and decisive in the digital transition. More specifically, this strategic line will work to ensure that satellite networks are fully taken into account in the definition of the 5G standard. Meanwhile, the strategic line 4S helps prepare industry and operators for the future European Union Governmental Satellite Communications (EU GOVSATCOM) programme, but also, more generally, for the commercial market of secure satellite telecommunications. Finally, the Optical Telecommunications - ScyLight strategic line is a continuation of the QUARTZ project and aims to achieve industrial excellence and domination of the optical space telecommunications market.

For the first time, Luxembourg has also joined the robotic and human exploration programme in order to support the initiative and to associate ESA with it, notably for the development of activities on the Moon. Participation in the lunar section of the E3P programme and in the European Space Resources Innovation Centre will thus support the research and development projects of Luxembourg companies and research laboratories by integrating them into projects on a European scale.

With regard to the exploration of asteroids, Luxembourg will also support the HERA (Juventas) and M-ARGO missions. The objective of CubeSat Juventas will be to characterise the binary asteroid Didymos and its moon. This will make it possible to develop a “Deep Space” mission skill and a low frequency radar skill in Luxembourg. The Grand Duchy will also be able to benefit from the data acquired by Juventas, in particular to feed the database of the European Space Resources Innovation Centre. Unlike Juventas which will travel with the HERA mission, M-ARGO aims to develop critical technologies that will allow a CubeSat to join the "Deep Space" and ensure the meeting with an asteroid completely independently.

For the period 2020-2024, Luxembourg's contribution to the compulsory and optional ESA programmes as well as to national, bilateral and multilateral initiatives will amount to €198.51 million.

Since 2016, within the framework of the initiative, various actions have been undertaken on the political, legal and regulatory level, on the level of public research and higher education, as well as on the economic and financial level. Several important events held over the past four years include the creation of the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA), the establishment of an "Interdisciplinary Space Master" at the University of Luxembourg, the signing of several agreements with other countries and organisations, the adoption of the law on the exploration and use of space resources and the launch of the LSA Data Center.

Between 2012 and 2018, the number of jobs in the sector increased by 31%. During the same period, the number of businesses doubled. The gross added value created increased by 21.7% in absolute terms between 2012 and 2018.

Revised every four years within the framework of ESA Ministerial Councils, the national action plan for space science and technology describes the different projects that participation in the different ESA programmes makes it possible to carry out within of the Luxembourg space sector community. The strategic objectives as originally stated remain unchanged for the period 2020-2024: to contribute to the diversification and sustainability of economic activities in Luxembourg through a proactive approach; to consolidate and enhance existing skills in media and satellite communications services; to contribute to strengthening the competitive position of companies and public research organizations in the space sector; to develop skills in the sector and amplify the integration of Luxembourg players in international networks.