Moon Base

Space Resources

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.

Applications

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.

About BSGN

We aim to create an ecosystem in which commercial projects and services can strive.

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About Terrae Novae

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

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Lunar commercial missions with astrobotic peregrine lander

Lunar Economy

A big step for industry

Forward to the Moon

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About BSGN

We aim to create an ecosystem in which commercial projects and services can strive.

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About Terra Novae

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

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Key Discoveries in Plant Science

The microgravity environment makes it possible to study both gravitropism and phototropism, delivering unique insights to plant biology and giving way to discoveries that have the potential to change the agriculture and food industry.

Gravitropism

The impact of gravity on the development of roots and shoots.

Phototropism

The impact of light on the development of roots and shoots.

Use Cases

Cultivation

 

  • Disease resistance
  • Stress resistance
  • Genomics
  • Vertical farming

Plant Growth

 

  • Root structure
  • Shoot Structure
  • Germination
  • Weight stress response

Seeding

 

  • Viability
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Plant Biology

 

  • Carbon and nitrogen use
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant hormones
  • Plant-microbe interactions

Success Case

SustainSpace

The Orbital Genomics Project

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Relevant Services and Partners for Your Project

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About BSGN

We aim to create an ecosystem in which commercial projects and services can strive.

Read more

About Terra Novae

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

Read more

Terrae Novae

HUMAN AND ROBOTIC EXPLORATION

TERRAE NOVAE

ESA’s vision is to ensure Europe’s central role in the new era of global space exploration. The long-term goal is to lead Europe’s human journey into the Solar System by using robotic missions as precursors and scouts.

Space exploration excites all generations. It has the potential to align national and international goals to maintain forward progress for humanity.

Forward thinking decisions are required to initiate the projects which will determine Europe’s role in global space exploration for the next decade and beyond. Space exploration is focused on destinations in our Solar System where humans will someday live and work, building on our continuous 20-year presence on the International Space Station.

In 2016, responding to the European Exploration Strategy, the ESA Council meeting at Ministerial level created the European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P) which integrates all ESA’s existing space exploration efforts into an affordable, purposeful and exciting programme.

OBJECTIVES

Terrae Novae is an ambitious, affordable programme with four key goals for the coming decade

  1. The first Europeans to travel beyond Earth’s orbit, and maybe the first European on the Moon.
  2. The first European commercial services for Moon exploration, stimulating the lunar economy.
  3. The first test of the feasibility of using space resources to enable sustainable space exploration.
  4. The first round-trip to Mars to return samples to be analysed in European laboratories for decades to come.

EXPLORATION

Why explore?

The intangible desire to explore and challenge the boundaries of what we know and where we have been has provided benefits to our society for centuries.

Space exploration helps to address fundamental questions about our place in the Universe and the history of our solar system. It stimulates knowledge gain, innovation and inspiration.

International cooperation is a key pillar of ESA’s exploration efforts – it realises the benefits and opens new perspectives for future challenges. A global space exploration endeavour creates new opportunities for addressing humanity’s global challenges.

ESA’s Space Exploration Vision serving Sustainable Development on Earth

Where?

ESA focuses on three destinations

Low-Earth-Orbit

The International Space Station (ISS) has been permanently inhabited since 2000. The current crews consist of six astronauts of different nationalities. Research on-board the ISS advances scientific knowledge in many domains, in particular in the fields of life and physical sciences and the ability for humans to work and live in extreme environments. The ISS also hosts payloads for Earth observation, astrophysics and technology demonstrations.

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Moon

Moon

A total of 12 US astronauts visited the lunar surface from 1968 to 1972 during the Apollo programme. Future planned missions to the Moon will allow us to learn more about the resources and hazards for humans beyond Low-Earth-Orbit. These missions will advance broader scientific questions related to the history of the Solar System and the emergence and co-evolution of life on Earth.

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Mars

Before humans can leave their boot prints on the dusty surface of Mars, many questions have to be answered and many problems solved. One of the most fundamental questions – one that has intrigued humankind for centuries – is whether life has ever existed on Mars, the most Earth-like of all the planets in our solar system.

A human missions to Mars is the common goal for human exploration in this century. The first step is robotic scouting of the Martian surface. Mars is a sister planet to the Earth. We want to know why it aged so quickly, freezing its water and losing its magnetic field and atmosphere.

manufacturing

What are the benefits?

Scientific research and discovery

New scientific discoveries and technical capabilities reinforce each other with each step into the unknown. Science enables exploration as research prepares to extend human presence in the Solar System, while in turn making a valuable contribution to science in general

Innovation and new horizons

The stringent challenges of space exploration are an accelerator for innovation:

  • Exploration drives technology technology innovation in many areas needed to face problems on Earth, for example energy efficiency, robotics and artificial intelligence, and recycling and waste management.
  • Scientific discoveries enabled by human exploration in the weightlessness of space can be applied widely, from health to metallurgy.

The unique nature of space exploration opens up additional new horizons on Earth:

  • Deeper knowledge about our Solar System and life beyond Earth changes our perception of humankind.
  • Exploration fascinates and motivates the next generation to achieve personal goals in education and beyond.
  • Multilateral cooperation in space exploration raises European states to global prominence.

What are the economic benefits?

A budget of nearly €2B has been approved by Ministers for Terrae Novae activities in the period of 2020-2025. The projected economic impact is expected to reach nearly €5.4B in direct, indirect and induced economic effects.

Each industry job funded by ESA space exploration contracts is expected to create two additional jobs in the broader space industry. Almost 19 thousand person years of work are expected to be created (directly and indirectly) in the following years thanks to the implementation of the Terrae Novae activities decided in 2019.

Economic impact of ESA’s Human and Robotic Space Exploration programme
Space engineering and hardware

ISS Columbus Laboratory

Business in Space

CONNECTING YOUR BUSINESS TO SPACEDO BUSINESS IN SPACE

LEO Economy

Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) is becoming more and more accessible to commercial entities, allowing them to provide commercial services and develop products in space. Facilities on the International Space Station (ISS), Space Rider, and future destinations such as the Lunar Gateway provide the world’s most unique laboratory and work place to private industry.

Lunar Economy

The Moon is not moving closer to Earth, but with the Lunar Gateway and an increasing number of commercial missions being in the pipeline, we are moving closer to the Moon! The Lunar Pathfinder Commercial Partnership will be providing the first commercial lunar mission support services around the Moon, supporting future missions from both public and private actors. Prospective habitats on the Moon open up the possibility for cargo and resupply missions, infrastrucutre, construction, resource and mining operations alongside production of consumables.

Mars

Don’t be fooled by the distance to Mars – even if there is limited potential for a commercial market developing around our red neighbor, there is potential for commercial contributions. Think of technology-transfer and mission support services.

About BSGN

We aim to create an ecosystem in which commercial projects and services can strive.

Read more

About Terra Novae

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

Read more

Commercial Partners

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COMMERCIAL SPACEFLIGHT IS HERE

Looking to build a successful team for your mission? Use our search to find the right team members and implementation partners for your endeavour.

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Use Cases

Space Environment

Industries

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Space Resources

Space resources are key to sustainably explore space and create a circular economy.


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Moon Base

Lunar Economy


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Lunar commercial missions with astrobotic peregrine lander

Terrae Novae


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Business in Space


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ISS Columbus Laboratory

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Commercial Partners

DISCOVER PARTNERS BY SERVICE CATEGORY

Airbus CLTV Module Mission Support Use Cases

Commercial Space Access

Do you plan a project in space? These companies offer space access as a commercial service.

Space engineering and hardware

Engineering & Tech Development

These services help you design and build your payload and related technology.

Goonhilly Ground Station

Ground Stations & Antennas

Find ground-based mission support services that to make your mission a success.

Hybrid_European_RF_and_Antenna_Test_Zone_pillars

Labs & Testing Facilities

Put your payload to the test with these laboratories and testing facilities.

Scientific innovation

Science & Research

These organisations can support you with the scientific and research related tasks involved with your space mission.