Well-known asteroids are rich in natural resources, which are extremely rare on Earth, and therefore very valuable. These include platinum and tungsten, but also iridium, osmium, palladium, rhenium, rhodium or ruthenium. According to the online ranking Asterank.com, prepared by astronomy enthusiasts, the Solar System has more than 500 asteroids, each worth more than $ 100 billion. This value is estimated on the basis of their geological structure and size.
Scientists have long been raising the issue of the presence of helium isotope (Hel-3) in our solar system, including on the Moon. This isotope is found on Earth in trace amounts, and potentially it can be an extremely efficient and environmentally friendly source of cheap energy.
Some of the bodies nearer to Earth have are already caught the attention of businesses, space agencies and states. According to researchers, the space mining industry's transition from the planning phase to the operational phase is only a matter of time. Polish companies specializing in space robotics, asteroid observations and space systems integration do not want to stay behind. They signed the EX-PL consortium agreement with intent to implement a number of space mining projects.
The EX-PL consortium members are: ABM Space, Cilium Engineering, Creotech Instruments S.A. and Sybilla Technologies. The consortium's activities are also accompanied by cooperation with a team of observers and partners, including the Industrial Institute of Automation and Measurements and young teams working on future solutions for space mining. Among them are the creators of the DREAM project - an experiment that allows to test space drilling.
CEO of Creotech Instruments, Dr. Grzegorz Brona explained that the aim of the EX-PL consortium, set up by the Polish companies, is to carry out a number of projects which are jointly referred to as mining space projects. "The timeframe of the first mining missions is 20-40 years. During this time, a number of technologies and solutions must be developed to enable such missions. The consortium will work on these solutions. The first, very important project is currently undergoing a detailed refinement and will soon be announced by the consortium "- said Dr. Grzegorz Brona.
"In Poland, space robotics is a thriving specialization. It may not be so spectacular in the context of sending rockets into space, building telecoms or satellite networks, but we have a lot to offer in this new industry" - said in an interview with PAP Mateusz Józefowicz from ABM Space, the consortium leader.
Technologies developed for space mining can also be used in other areas. As part of their collaboration, members of the EX-PL consortium want to work together on a package of services for the broadly understood space industry and traditional mining.
"Polish companies have positioned themselves very well in the race for future resources that are strategically important for our country. We have had a great niche in the space industry that is not yet filled by international giants. We must now build adequate capital on the Polish side to maintain this advantage" - added Józefowicz.
The formation of the consortium coincided with the official visit of the Luxembourg delegation in Poland. At the Embassy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in Warsaw, a conference devoted to space mining and Polish-Luxembourg cooperation in this field was held.
Luxembourg plays a special role in this sector because, as Józefowicz told PAP, it is building a special legal platform for the international community. Through this platform, it will validate the ownership of what will be extracted, for example, from an asteroids, by issuing a concession. "According to the space-use treaty, no one can own solar system objects, but whatetever is extracted and brought on board a space vehicle becomes a property" - Józefowicz explained. A platform similar to the Luxembourg one already exists in the United States, but it only applies to entities controlled by US citizens.
"The signing of the consortium agreement and the formal entry into dialogue with the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy, the Polish Ministry of Development and the Polish Space Agency are the results of more than a year's work, but it is really only a very promising start of cooperation" - said Józefowicz.
PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland
ekr/ agt/ kap/