Dr Kathryn Hadler, an internationally renowned scientist in mineral processing and beneficiation, has been appointed Director of the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC) as of 1 April 2022.
Backed by a PEARL Chair from the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) with an endowment of 3.7 M€ over five years, Kathryn Hadler will join ESRIC to lead the further development of the Centre, advancing scientific discovery and technology development in In situ Resources Utilisation (ISRU) and asserting ESRIC and Luxembourg’s position in space resources. The PEARL programme, funded by the 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 the Luxembourg Space Agency (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 persons, has made fast progress over the past 15 months in cooperation with its partners. 2021 saw the launch of the world’s first start up programme dedicated to space resources, the build-up of the first labs and the start of the centre’s first research projects, as well as the organization of the Space Resources week 2021 – a major international event in the field of space resources. ESRIC also initiated important partnerships with industrial partners such as Airbus and Air Liquide, and launched a space resources prospecting challenge together with ESA.
Dr Hadler’s nomination will 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 In-situ Resources Utilisation (ISRU).
“A new era of human and robotic exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit is underway”, explains Kathryn Hadler. “For humans to travel further and stay longer in space requires the development of systems to support human life and refuel spacecraft using resources found locally. As a consequence, ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization) 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 MEUR 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 2 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.” states Mathias Link. As part of his Director mandate at the LSA, he will also continue coordinating the SpaceResources.lu initiative launched in 2016, of which ESRIC is a key element.