Lunar regolith simulant before (left) and after (right) an electrochemical oxygen extraction process.
The right picture is a metallic power, by-product of the oxygen extraction process.

What are space resources?

It would take a long time to list all possible space resources, but a few examples are dust, broken rocks, regolith on the surface of the Moon and Mars, water-ice at planet poles, rare metals in asteroids, and even old rocket parts and human made space debris.

Space resources offer new unique solutions to propellant production, radiation and thermal protection, landing pads and road manufacturing, extraction of metals and other materials, life support, and even off-Earth food production.

There is a growing interest in using space resources. In-situ resource utilization (ISRU) is expected to be a key enabler for the international ambitions of a long-term presence on the surface of the Moon as well as a future human mission to Mars.

ESA is active in advancing research, technology, and commercial partnerships further European ambitions in the development of utilisation methods for space resources to enable sustainable exploration, starting with the closest planetary body: the Moon.


Many applications exist within the value chain of space resources utilisation.

ESA is active in finding innovative use cases, with several calls for ideas open to industry and academia.

Call for ideas

A landing pad could be built with local dust material, a spacecraft refuelled with water ice, metals extracted from an asteroid, a habitat covered by a recycled payload fairing, and endless other possibilities.

The space environment is however a challenging one.

Technology and processes will need high autonomy, dust resistance, be carbon-free, and able to deal with high vacuum and temperature fluctuations.

The innovation driven by the challenges of space resource utilisation could also have a spin-on effect on the terrestrial market, offering new automated and sustainable solutions.
New facilities
New facilities support new initiatives and businesses in their development, offering technical expertise, advice on business cases, and exposure to the broader space resources community.

ESA, LSA, and the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) jointly launched the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC) in 2020, furthering European ambitions in the field. This new centre will support European space resource activities in four areas: Research and Development (R&D), Knowledge, Community, and Business.

ESRIC will provide key pieces of equipment for R&D, such as ground demonstrators for advancing research on oxygen extraction and a large dirty thermal vacuum chamber for testing and increasing the technology readiness of planetary rover and payload systems as well as their subsystems.

ESRIC also aims at developing new business opportunities through a Startup Support Program. It will also create commercial partnerships with established companies. These new commercial opportunities provided by space resources will foster innovation for European industries and research institutions.

The Sample Analogue Curation Facility (SACF)

in Harwell, United Kingdom, has been made accessible to industry and academia. It will provide expertise on extra-terrestrial simulant materials, which are required in the development of most ISRU technology and processes

The LUNA facility

in Cologne, Germany, will offer a unique testbed for developing and testing tools and operations together with astronauts.

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Europe’s Space Exploration Programme unites 22 Member States to go where noone has gone before.

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