Luxembourg at the forefront of the newspace dynamic

Space industry specialists made the trip from all over Europe and beyond to attend the third edition of the Space Forum, a two-day event held in Luxembourg on May 21st and 22nd, aimed at promoting exchanges and triggering debates between all the active forces of the sector. 

Source : Beast
Publication date : 07/10/2019


GovSatCom for Defence and Security applications 

After having offered his welcome words to the participants, Paul Wells, Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer of GovSat, presented the activities of his organization, a public-private venture owned by SES and the Luxembourg State. «In a harsh threat environment, our EU and NATO partners are exposed to increasing signal jamming, cyber-attacks and physical attacks», he said. «Our mission is to support our users in need of secure long range communications.» To achieve this objective, GovSat provides their partners with X-band mission beam capacity, terminal supply, integration and installation, and local maintenance and support. And all this is orchestrated from Luxembourg, «a senior provider in terms of satellite operations».

Open access to space: a view from Europe and China 

Acting as Master of Ceremony for the second chapter of Space Forum 2019, Jean-Jacques Dordain, former Director-General of ESA and member of the advisory board of, underlined that «if defense is still the main driver for space activities, changes are being brought on by new players who are introducing a new culture and new standards of cost and time.» He added that «space is nevertheless the only place where it is still possible to collect and spread data everywhere».

He then passed the floor to Professor Ji Wu, former Director of the Chinese National Space Science Center. 

Pr. Ji Wu told the audience that China had to develop its presence in space with its own capabilities, without any support from the US or Russia. «We have some capabilities in the space field, funded by the government, but this is not enough», he added. However, China has started in 2015 to issue some regulations to open the space market to private actors. The country has 8 million internet users who may be potential customers for the space industry. «NewSpace is an area that venture capitalists are targeting now», said Pr. Ji Wu. «This gives space start-ups opportunities to take off and develop».

The next presentation was given by Dr. Shufan Wu, Chair Professor and Executive Dean of School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He recalled that, with the construction and launch of with micro and nano satellites, the NewSpace wave had been started and was now booming. «In China, more and more players are joining the micro and nano satellite club, both universities and commercial companies», said Dr. Shufan Wu. Since 2015, the commercial Chinese space sector has in fact become more and more active. «Globally speaking», Dr. Shufan Wu added, «China is still in its start-up phase with regard to the micro and nano satellites industry and the development of space-related commercial products and services. But a very rapid and vigorous expansion in these fields is foreseen in the next decade».

Having heard the Chines points of view, Jean-Jacques Dordain handed the floor to Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency.

According to Mr. Le Gall, current developments in the space sector will be accentuated with the emergence of new paradigms in the global landscape. In addition to the traditional US supremacy, China and India are advancing rapidly, as evidenced by the record number of Chinese launches and India's ambitions for human spaceftight. «Today, there are more than 60 space agencies around the world», noted the president of CNES, «and there is no sign of a lack of commercial competition.» This is due to a number of factors: the commercial ambitions of national strategies, the NewSpace dynamic that is stimulating the entire industry, whether launchers, satellites or applications, and a rapidly changing satellite market. To address this situation, CNES is running a «complete transformation to become a modern space agency capable of supporting the space ecosystem.» 

«From a British perspective, NewSpace is small: with no launcher, we are seen as the hitchhikers of the galaxy», said humorously Lord David Willetts, former UK Minister for l University & Science. More seriously, he added that NewSpace meant «private funding and investments» and «quick and lean» for the British. «The main ingredient of NewSpace is how much data it will produce», he said. «The debate is who owns the data, who can use them and under what conditions». When asked about the role of regulation, he answered «we need a regulative regime that supports and enables the development of launch activities» and that «ESA could play a key role in developing such a regulatory framework». 

The next speaker was Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), who provided the UN perspective on open access to space. Ms. Di Pippo explained that the UN have developed a «2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development» in order to address societal challenges that need to be overcome in the form of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 associated specific targets. Research found that 65 of the 169 SDG indicators are reliant on the use of space. In light of that, the UNOOSA is missioned to provide access to space-data and information and build capacity to use such data to accelerate sustainable development. The Office also facilitates member states in the development of NewSpace policy. 

In the context of a scarcity of natural resources on Earth, Bertrand Baratte, Director of Space Activity for Air Liquide, explained to the participants how he world leading company in gas services intended to play a prominent role in the exploitation of new extra-terrestrial resources. The set of solutions that Air Liquide is working on ranges from spacecraft propellants through inflatable and collapsible tanks to technologies for processing gases across the mining value chain. «Our ambition is to become an enabler for the open space journey», said Bertrand Baratte. 

Big Data and the business of Space data 

Olivier Lemaire, Partner at EY, acted as moderator on May 22nd. He recalled how Luxembourg had succeeded in adapting to changing economies during the past decades, from agriculture to steel, finance, digital and now space. 

«In the last five years», he said, «the country has been able to create a real ecosystem, around the space industry». Data extrated from space activities are essential for industries as diverse as farming, maritime transportation and real estate but also for strategic areas such as electricity, oil and gas. 

Olivier Lemaire then handed the floor to Arthur Sauzay, space policy expert at Institut Montaigne. He is the author of a, report for Institut Montaigne published in December 2017 called Space: Will Europe strike back? «If data had mass, Earth would be a black hole», he joked, meaning that, for transporting worldwide the gigantic quantities of data produced and collected on Earth, we needed to use the increased capabilities offered by space systems. But soon, a large portion of the data will originate from space itself. «What is the situation today ?», he asked. «The two main trends in the space business are Internet constellations and Earth Observation». But Internet satelllte networks are still facing technical issues, regulation problems need to be addressed and business models must still be defined. As regards EO, services are still offered by a small number of operators financed by governments and public means. Efforts must be made to open the EO activity to the private sector. 

Marc Serres, CEO of the Luxembourg Space Agency, firstly reviewed the misslons and objectives of the LSA, emphasizing on the development of the Luxembourg space ecosystem and synergies with businesses and orgarizations outside the space sector. Marc Serres has also announced the creation of the LSA Data Center. The LSA Data Center has been created to support businesses in Luxembourg with reliable, fast and intuitive access to data streams from the European Copernicus Earth Observation programme. «This initiative of the LSA is just a first step to facilitate access to space data with the aim to stimulate new services provided by Luxembourg as a hub for commercial space in Europe», said Marc Serres. The LSA Data Center provides users with search and download access to a fully indexed and referenced, real-time geo-catalogue, set up with products from the Copernicus Sentinel 1 and 2 satellite constellations. This information is provided on a full, free and open access basis. 

Omar Valdes, Market Development Officer at the European GNSS Agency (GSA), then took the floor to demonstrate the value of Galileo as a multipurpose source of space-generated Big Data. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) is a source of valuable space generated data that can benefit from the technologies assoclated to Big Data and computing. «Galileo in particular can be valuable to making such solutions more secure by improving the quality and reliability of the collected data», said Omar Valdes. 

Big Data-related GNSS applications that can be improved by using Galileo include location-based services (smartphones producing geo-tagged pictures, Augmented Reality games), IoT, Road (fleet tracking, connected vehicles in general), time stamping of financial transactions and scientific applications. 

Olivier Lemaire then introduced the next speaker, Dr Jason Maroothynaden, a Business Broker from ESA's Business Applications Team, a division that provides ESA's support for the commercialization of satellite applications and space-using industry. He told the public that ESA was not only involved in space research and technology. The agency is also a partner, broker, mediator, facilitator and enabler for the industry. «From international transport to rural education, ESA Business Applications have enabled data from satellites to transform businesses on Earth. We have already invested €200m in launching innovative services in over 500 businesses», said Jason Maroothynaden. «Partnerships with selected investors and lenders leverages more finance into ESA-supported companies and ensures suceessful commercialization», he added. 

The last speaker of the conference was Carlos Lopez-Martinez, Head of Remote Sensing and Natural Resources Modelling Group af the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST). «Society is nowadays facing unprecedented challenges for food and water security, ecosystem sustainability and resilience to major natural disasters», said Carlos Lopez-Martinez. «Remote Sensing and Earth Observations are necessary not only to monitor, to report and to model the climate change and to address these great societal challenges, but also to contribute to their solution», he added. The vision of the Remote Sensing and Natural Resources Modelling group is to conduct and to offer research and innovation of excellence, while contributing to the Luxembourg and European economies, the environment sustainability and the human welfare. This contribution is centered on the combination and exploitation of remote sensing information obtained by multiple and complementary sensors installed on spaceborne and airborne platforms, together with in-situ monitoring. «Our research projects are used in areas such as natural disasters like floods and droughts, precision agriculture, land surface processes, vegetation water cycle, and maritime transportation», he concluded.

Michaël Renotte


Share this page: