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Fly me to the moon: Germany eyes slice of the lucrative market space

BERLIN Reuters) – Faced with heavy competition from China, the United States, and even little Luxembourg, Germany, is the race to the draft of a new law and attract private investment for securing a segment of an emerging market space that can be to the value of $1 trillion per year by the 2040s.

Employees chatting on a production line of Airbus’ European Service Module (ESM), which is provided for NASA’s Orion Spaceship, at the Airbus plant in Bremen, Germany, February 19, 2019. This picture was taken in February 19,2019. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

The drive to Germany to play a stronger role in space, such as the European, Asian and AMERICAN companies staking ground in a growing segment that promises to be contracts for everything, from exploration, mining of the outer-space resources.

Companies will probably benefit from a future expenditure to rise in Germany include Airbus, who is co-owner of the maker of Europe’s Ariane space rockets, and Bremen-based OHB.

The new legislation would limit the financial and legal obligations of the private companies have the accidents happen in a job, the standards for space operations and the offer of incentives for new projects, the German economy ministry told Reuters.

The ministry of aerospace and space commissioner, Thomas Jarzombek, could submit to the laws of the parliament later this year. The move comes as companies and trade groups for the German authorities to establish a legal framework for the lucrative new market to stimulate private investment.

“We are sounding the alarm that Germany and Europe are lagging behind in the space relative to China and the United States,” Dirk hoke was administered, defence and space chief at French-German-led aerospace group Airbus, told Reuters. “We are at a critical moment to ensure that we remain in the top league.”

Germany is Europe’s economic powerhouse and the fourth largest economy. But it just had the world’s seventh largest national space budget in 2018, an estimated $1.1 billion, slightly more than half of the amount generated by the fifth-placed France, according to preliminary data from the Paris-based research firm Euroconsult.

The figure, excluding the contributions to the pan-European programs, is overshadowed by the United States by far the largest expenditure on space on nearly $40 billion.

Ironically, the U.s. space ambitions could offer a lifeline.

Hoke was administered said a new moon Gateway program supported by the US space agency NASA offered a chance for Germany and other countries in Europe to the game from a claim on an important role in the market.

“In my eyes, it is extremely important that we participate as equal partners, so that we are ready for the development and construction of technologies for such a gateway,” he said.

The program includes the design and development of a small spaceship that is in orbit around the Moon and serve as a temporary home for the astronauts and as the basis for the work on the surface of the moon and, later, missions to Mars. NASA had focused on the finishing of the Gateway by 2026, but Washington is now directed to the man back on the Moon by 2024, which may lead to an accelerated schedule.

Earlier, in Germany is confronted with a brain-drain, as companies around the world pondering how to extract minerals from asteroids and the water of the moon in a decade.

Some companies are already considering relocating to Luxembourg, which has a lead in Europe through the introduction of laws to limit the obligations and to ease restrictions on mining. It also has a 100-million-euro ($112 million)investment fund for projects.

“It is a global market. We have our customers and we keep them, even if we the company from somewhere else,” said Walter Ballheimer, CEO of the German Orbital Systems, a Berlin-based start-up that builds small satellites.

“Germany was overtaken a long time ago,” he said. “But it is still not too late. If they are brave enough to handle and a clear space policy … then we can have a piece of the pie that we should have as one of the leading export country.”

Two other heads of the small German companies are the area told Reuters that they were planning to leave the country.

‘LEAN’ SPACE LAW

But Germany is not standing still.

Space commissioner Jarzombek is working with trade groups, companies and other experts in the drafting of the laws of the space, and plans to submit them to parliament some time after September.

“We strive to have a lean basis of the law that is open to the future,” said a spokeswoman for Jarzombek and the economy of the ministry. “A national space law should especially focus on incentives and make it possible for the German space industry is to play a greater role in global developments.”

Berlin is also pressing the United Nations to set standards for the mining of the Moon, asteroids and other objects in the space.

In the United States passed a law in 2015 that encouraged private companies to undertake mining work outside of the Earth, and gives companies the right to claim the resources that they will one day be able to extract from the heavenly bodies.

Jarzombek helped secure a 269-million-euro increase in the planned funding for the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2020-2023. But Germany in the total space of the financing, including ESA and national programmes, is not expected to rise in that period. The sharp is slightly lower to 1.57 billion euros in 2019.

The 18-member ESA oversees the cooperation on space exploration and launches, but individual countries have their own research and interests, funded outside of the ESA budget.

Matthias Wachter, aerospace expert at the BDI-federal association of German Industry, said the progress in the space were of crucial importance for future technologies, such as autonomous driving.

“Germany is limping behind,” he said.

All expenditure plans would have to contend with increasing budget pressures and an economic recession. Germany is in its 10th year of expansion, but only narrowly avoided recession last year.

Executives of Deutsche Bank and Munich Re and others met in Berlin this month to brainstorm about ways to fund and ensure new space projects.

A problem is, in Germany, conservative approach to investment and funding, the entrepreneurs search for capital, said Sebastian Straube, CEO of investment firm in Interstellar Ventures.

Straube is building a 100-million-euro investment fund projects. He also works with companies like rail operator Deutsche Bahn to encourage them to support new initiatives that build applications that take advantage of the increased access to space by means of satellites in a low orbit around the earth.

SPACEX FIGHT

Marco Fuchs, CEO of satellite-builder OHB, said Germany’s need for larger increase of the national space funding to pay for ground-breaking developments, citing the growing competition worldwide.

The company conducted a privately-funded commercial mission of China to the orbit of the moon in 2014, and together this year with Israel Aerospace Industries to offer to the commercial delivery of the cargo on the lunar surface for ESA.

OHB is a major player in the battle between the new european Ariane 6 rocket and the Falcon 9, built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch the first of the two new OHB spy satellites, the so-called Georg, the German foreign intelligence service in 2022.

Slideshow (12 Images)

The contract, worth tens of millions of dollars, is drawing political attention after SpaceX and Ariane traded barbs about the access to each other’s markets, which could presage a trans-atlantic trade dispute in the coming years.

OHB and the German government expects to select the winner at the end of 2020, and Fuchs said that the decision would be based on many factors, including the launch of data and the available budgets.

“In the end, it is always a matter of the price – or a political decision,” he said.

Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Tim Hepher; Editing by Pravin Char

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