Luxembourg Plans to Launch an Asteroid-Mining Test Spacecraft

Luxembourg and California-based Deep Space Industries have partnered to launch a spacecraft that could be used for asteroid mining. NASA

A tiny European country is jumping into an unusual space race.

Luxembourg is partnering with California-based Deep Space Industries to produce a spacecraft that will test many features necessary for asteroid mining. The module, known as Prospector X, will be launched sometime "in the near future," according to the company. Luxembourg is the first European country to make concrete plans to get into asteroid mining.

The spacecraft will consist of three coupled cube satellites, each about an inch in diameter, and will be propelled by water, which is abundant throughout the solar system and galaxy. The Prospector X also has "radiation-tolerant avionics, and optical navigation system with highly-reliable off-the-shelf commercial nano satellite components," the company noted.

Deep Space Industries' Prospector X is designed to test technologies needed for asteroid mining. Deep Space Industries

"We have been impressed by Luxembourg's tangible actions to lead the creation of an asteroid resource economy," Daniel Faber, CEO of Deep Space Industries, told Gizmag. "The opportunity to partner with Luxembourg on Prospector-X allows a number of the key technologies for cost-effective deep space operations to be rapidly flight-tested in advance of more complex missions."

Asteroid mining was taken a step closer to reality last year when President Barack Obama signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law, allowing companies to keep what they take from outer space, and Luxembourg says it plans to enact a similar legal framework.