DailyDirt: Space Mining
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
It’s fairly common in science fiction for space mining operations to exist, but the reality is that just getting anything into space is pretty expensive — and there isn’t all that much stuff in space that needs to get re-supplied with materials. However, the legal basis for claiming ownership of space resources may be clearing up, and a few companies might actually be driving down the costs of getting a spacecraft into space. The concept of striking a literal gold mine in space might not happen, but the technology to collect resources in space might still be valuable for future space exploration.
- The House has passed a bill containing rules for space mining rights — allowing private companies to actually own whatever they manage to mine on any asteroids they find. The Space Act appears to only cover resources from asteroids, so private companies can’t claim ownership of moons, planets or planetoids or… anything else yet. [url]
- Another asteroid mining company has ambitious plans to release a fleet of cubesats to look for precious metals in asteroids in near-earth space. Even if this company succeeds in finding asteroids that contain more metal than others, it could end up being a very expensive way to get nickel and iron back to earth. [url]
- Planetary Resources Inc might not be so optimistic about extracting platinum from mining asteroids — as the company pivots to collecting water from space objects to serve as a re-fueling station to help extend the lifespans of aging satellites already in orbit. However, it’s not clear if the owners of existing satellites would ever want to pay for such a risky service. [url]
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Filed Under: asteroid mining, asteroids, cubesats, platinum, precious metals, satellites, space, space act, space exploration
Companies: deep space industries, planetary resources
Comments on “DailyDirt: Space Mining”
“Any asteroid resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained such resources, which shall be entitled to all property rights thereto, consistent with applicable provisions of Federal law.”
Que patents on minig asteroids in 3, 2, 1…
You’re a little late with that countdown.
What About the Outer Space Treaty?
Something went awry so let me try again…
That Act of Congress seems to breach Article 2 of the Outer SpaceTreaty 1967, which reads:
“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 means.”
By enacting this law the US is implicitly claiming the right to enact such laws for such celestial bodies, which in turn is implicitly a claim of sovereignty over those bodies.
Re: What About the Outer Space Treaty?
If I recall correctly, the outer space treaty is ambiguous on non-government entities. So the US and other countries have agreed they won’t claim ownership of space objects, but… That doesn’t mean they can’t recognize ownership claims made by private companies? That’s part of the logic behind the various companies that sell property lots on the moon and stars in the sky (for novelty purposes).
Re: Re: What About the Outer Space Treaty?
“That’s part of the logic behind the various companies that sell property lots on the moon and stars in the sky (for novelty purposes)”
Companies that do this are not actually selling any property at all. They are selling a certificate and an entry in a publication. No property rights are being transferred — which is why they have to say “for novelty purposes only”, which is just code for “this has no legal meaning”.
Re: Re: What About the Outer Space Treaty?
Doesn’t look ambiguous to me. The provision you are referring to is article 6 of the treaty, which is as follows:
Rather lengthy but clear enough as far as I can see. “Non-government entities have to abide by the treaty just like their governmental counterparts; and the onus is placed on the state parties to ensure that they do so. (But note that mention of “continuing supervision”. That is not likely to sit well with those who argue for corporations to to be subject to minimal (if any) governmental regulation!
What use is the US “recognising” a company’s claim if the laws of other spacefaring nations do not themselves recognise claims made under US laws? That would raise the prospect of companies having to register the same claim of ownership to a celestial body in multiple countries to prevent some OTHER company registering ownership of the same celestial body in one or more of those other countries.
And that’s assuming such laws are valid under the treaty anyway. If they aren’t (thanks to article 2), then the only solution (short of revoking the treaty) would be a revision of the Outer Space Treaty or a new treaty. (This was actually attempted some decades ago for the Moon with the infamous Moon Treaty, but that treaty was never ratified by the US.
Asteroid mining bill
HR1508 did NOT pass the House. It passed a committee vote only. All the media outlets are quoting the poorly written WAPO article. Google HR1508 for current status.