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Welcome to the new space economy... Space is open for business!
The dawn of a new space race led by private sector entrepreneurs is upon us thanks to the USA Space Act 2015 and technology advances like SpaceX rockets, which have greatly reduced the cost of space flight. For the first time in history, the advances in both technical and legal infrastructure have opened up exciting opportunities that are already driving the commercial exploration of deep space commodities, Space tourism with Virgin Galactic, and the serious planning for the colonisation of our Moon and Mars.
Tom James, a leading commodity and energy market practitioner and author, has brought together top professionals in academia, astropolitics, space engineering, and space law to explore the exciting opportunities and challenges businesses face in the new off-planet economy.
With quadrillions of dollars of mineral wealth and frozen water within our reach, the stakes may be high, but so are the rewards.
So pack your bags, fasten your oxygen mask and let’s get ready to boldly take business where business has not gone before...



1. Deep Space Commodities and the New Space Economy

Since the dawn of agricultural civilization eminent scholars from Babylon to Beijing have looked to the stars to find meaning. This would manifest in our species as an evolving curiosity not just to observe the stars in the sky, but to also explore that void beyond. In 1865 Jules Verne imagined shooting astronauts to the Moon, in 1901 H.G. Wells wrote of his own Moon landing – perhaps portentiously, Wells envisages the two pioneer astronauts as a businessman and a scientist. The popular imagination has since exploded with ambitions and dreams of space travel appearing in popular media, such as Star Wars and Interstellar.

Tom James

2. A New Space Race

The Russian space pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky famously wrote in a letter in 1911 that “a planet is the cradle of mind (usually cited as ‘humanity’) but one cannot live in a cradle forever”. A hundred years on, we are now witnessing dramatic advances in space. The sector, so long the preserve of governments and national agencies, is opening up to widespread competition.

Tim R. Bowler

3. Launching from Earth: The Science Behind Space Law and Technological Developments

Given the ramping interest, burgeoning investment and exponential development of technologies associated with the commercialization of space, humankind’s final frontier is about to be seriously breached, giving birth to a new era of space exploration, tourism and industrial development.

Tom James, Simon Roper

4. Humans Versus Machine: Who Will Mine Space?

Humans versus machine? A question humankind has posed to itself since Charles Babbage invented the mechanical computer, ‘The Babbage Engine’. Since World Chess Champion Gary Kasporov played a computer named ‘Deep Blue’ in 1997 and famously lost. (Time Magazine, “Did Deep Blue Beat Kasparov Because of a System Glitch?”, 17 February 2015,

Tom James, Simon Roper

5. Scouting for Resources

Harvesting minerals from asteroids and planets is still a decade away from becoming a reality, so Planetary Resources has discovered. Eighteen years on and with a preliminary Earth-satellite mineral scout system named Ceres now abandoned, the company is focusing on deep space.

Tom James

6. Asteroid Mining Concepts

Neil Armstrong, the very first human to step on the Moon, would never have predicted the advancements, ramping human interest, opportunities and sheer aspirations contained within the contemporary space community, accelerating space exploration at the technological pace it has since that landmark day for humanity in July 1969. One such phenomena he wouldn’t have likely considered is that of space asteroid mining, which details the extraction of raw materials from any given asteroid or moon identified as a viable target.

Tom James

7. Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment Mission (AIDA): Space Mining Concepts

Originated by NASA, the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission concept has been tabled by an international collaboration between the US space agency, the ESA, Observatoire de la Cote d’Azur (OCA) and the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL).

Tom James

8. A Briefing on the Legal and Geopolitical Facets of Space Resources

The issue of space resources is polarizing and fraught with misinformation and hyperbole. The purpose of this chapter is to dispose of the political narrative, posturing and hyperbole surrounding space resources and provide an objective analysis that briefly discusses the law surrounding the issue of space resources, a brief legislative history and a discussion of the legal theory, arguments and issues surrounding the model of space resources. Additionally, this briefing will discuss the potential geopolitical effects and consequences the paradigm of space resources could manifest as well as the pitfalls the concept might create internationally.

Michael J. Listner

9. The Problems with an International Legal Framework for Asteroid Mining

Asteroid mining has been the topic of both future and legal studies for nearly half a century. It wasn’t until recently, however, that a legislative action would take place. The US commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (H.R.2262—US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. has accomplished a major breakthrough, even though it was preceded by the unsuccessful ASTEROIDS Act (H.R.5063—ASTEROIDS Act. It has been a beacon for other nations, such as Luxemburg (Oriane Kaesman “Luxembourg and the Space Mining Industry”., Draft law on the exploration and use of space resources. or the UAE to create its own legislature regarding the ownership or extraction of extraterrestrial resources. Even the EU commission and ESA will address the idea of space mining, as the aftermath of 2016’s Citizens’ Debate (Results of the ESA Citizens’ Debate.

Kamil Muzyka

10. Potential Issues for Interplanetary and Interstellar Trade

If and when interplanetary and interstellar trade develops, it will be novel in two respects. First, the distances and time spans involved will reduce all or nearly all trade to the exchange of intangible goods. That threatens the possibility of conducting business in a genuinely common currency and of enforcing debt agreements incurred by governments. Second, interstellar trade suggests trade between humans and aliens. Cultural distance is a probable obstacle to initiating and sustaining such trade. Such exchange also threatens the release of new and dangerous memes.

Encountering extraterrestrial alien civilizations and colonizing other worlds are amongst the most powerful and enduring ambitions of space exploration. Realizing either of these objectives implicates the possibility of trade over the vast distances of outer space.

John Hickman

11. Astropolitics and International Relations

What does the world of Thucydides have in common with that of Wehrner von Braun or Sergei Korolev; of the realm of the trireme with the Delta IV rocket? Much like the popular misconception that satellites in orbit have ‘escaped’ the influence of Earth’s gravity, there is a common perception that outer space is a politically different or separate realm to Earth. In truth, however, our affairs as a species in outer space have not escaped the influence of homo politicus; reaching outer space is not necessarily humanity’s road to absolution. Astropolitics is what humans seek to make of it. So far, politics in space reflects some of the prevailing features of international relations in an anarchic system that dates back to antiquity. The major powers of any international system tend to act according to fear, honour and interest; and it should not be assumed that an expansion of a political economy to deep space will alleviate such motivations. There may be nothing politically new around the Sun.

Bleddyn E. Bowen

12. The Economic Viability of Mars Colonization

The economic viability of colonizing Mars has been extensively examined. It is shown that of all bodies in the solar system other than Earth, Mars is unique in that it has the resources required to support a population of sufficient size to create locally a new branch of human civilization. It is also shown that while Mars may lack any cash material directly exportable to Earth, its orbital elements and other physical parameters give it a unique positional advantage that will allow it to act as a keystone, supporting extractive activities in the asteroid belt and elsewhere in the solar system.

Robert Zubrin


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