The Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) and the National Research Fund (Fonds national de la recherche - FNR) have announced the appointment of Dr Kathryn Hadler, an internationally renowned scientist in mineral processing and beneficiation, as Director of the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC), with effect from 1 April 2022.
Source : chronicle.lu
Publication date : 01/31/2022
Backed by a PEARL Chair from FNR with an endowment of €3.7 million over five years, Dr Kathryn Hadler will join the Luxembourg-based ESRIC to lead its further development, advancing scientific discovery and technology development in in situ resources utilisation (ISRU) and asserting the position of ESRIC and the Grand Duchy in space resources. The PEARL programme, funded by FNR, provides competitive funding to attract top researchers in strategic research areas for Luxembourg.
Led by Dr Mathias Link as ad-interim Director since its creation, ESRIC's activities revolve around space resources research and development, support for economic activities, knowledge management and community management. Launched in 2020, ESRIC is powered by LSA, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and the European Space Agency (ESA) as strategic partner.
The centre, which has grown to a core team of a dozen people, has made fast progress over the past fifteen months in cooperation with its partners. 2021 saw the launch of the world's first startup programme dedicated to space resources, the build-up of the first laboratories and the start of the centre's first research projects, as well as the organisation of the Space Resources Week 2021, a major international event in the field of space resources. ESRIC has also initiated partnerships with industrial partners such as Airbus and Air Liquide and launched a space resources prospecting challenge together with ESA.
Dr Kathryn Hadler's nomination is expected to build ESRIC's expertise in mineral processing and beneficiation and allow the creation of an internationally recognised research group that will advance scientific discovery and technology development in ISRU.
"A new era of human and robotic exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit is underway", explained Dr Hadler. "For humans to travel further and stay longer in space, the development of systems to support human life and refuel spacecraft using resources found locally is required. As a consequence, ISRU is now a key element in space agency strategy for space exploration. As a new resource use system, it is essential that ISRU is used as an exemplar of best practice in resource extraction, based on the concepts of end-to-end process optimisation, circularity of materials, zero-waste and restoration of pristine environments".
The €3.7 million FNR PEARL funding complements resources from ESRIC and will serve to build up a world-leading research team working on a programme dedicated to "Solutions for the Sustainable and Responsible use of Space Resources" (SolSR). The strategic objectives of the SolSR programme include developing technologies that provide solutions to the technical challenges presented by ISRU, producing technologies, tools and roadmaps that demonstrate sustainable and responsible approaches to resource use in space and creating tangible opportunities for collaboration with space and terrestrial industries, including mining and recycling. With these additional researchers, ESRIC is planned to grow to more than 30 researchers within the next two years.
While Dr Kathryn Hadler will be entrusted with the mission of further building up ESRIC, Dr Mathias Link will remain involved in the centre's activities as Chair of the ESRIC steering committee.
"After this first launch phase, LSA is looking forward to continuing powering ESRIC as one of its founding members", stated Dr Link. As part of his Director mandate at LSA, he will also continue coordinating the SpaceResources.lu initiative launched in 2016, of which ESRIC is a key element.
Luxembourg's Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot, commented: "Luxembourg has been a frontrunner in launching the SpaceResources.lu initiative a few years ago. It is now acknowledged as a strategic topic for the future of space exploration by key partners such as ESA, with which we were able to create ESRIC. Luxembourg was again at the forefront, with the launch of the ESRIC Startup Support Programme (SSP), the first programme worldwide dedicated to commercial initiatives in the field of space resources utilization (SRU). The nomination of Dr Hadler will allow to further advance SRU research and continue positioning Luxembourg as a trailblazer in the field, while putting sustainability at its core".