Space law: Luxembourg authorises the commercial exploitation of space resources

On the 13 July 2017, in the context of a program entitled "", Luxembourg passed a law authorising exploration and commercial use of space resources. This law which came into force on the 1st of August 2017 gives private stakeholders, subject to the granting of a prior authorization by the Minister of the economy, the right to exploit resources in celestial bodies (notably asteroids and planets), for example hydrocarbons, ores or metals.

Luxembourg is the first European country to adopt the same logic as the one adopted by the United States in 2015 by the vote of the '"Obama Space Act".

Several companies of the spatial sector such as Blue Horizon, Deep Space Industries, Planetary Resources and Ispace have already settled in Luxembourg and this legislation should have an attractive effect on many other companies.

However, this law raises a compliance issue with international law. Indeed, experts consider that it is contrary to the principle stipulated by the international treaty governing the activities of States in the exploration and use of outer space which entered into force on 10 October 1967. As a matter of fact, article II of this treaty states that "outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other mean".

Nevertheless, the United States and Luxembourg argue that the principle of non-appropriation of space only applies to States and not to private operators and only applies to space as a territory and not to its resources themselves. As a result, their respective legislations would not infringe any provision of the treaty.

In order to prevent a disordered exploitation of space resources, some experts suggest adopting rules similar to those which already exist for the seabed sector since the entry into force in 1994 of the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea (CNUDM)3, i.e. a regulation supervised by an international authority, a system based on authorisation and the repayment of part of the profits.

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