Luxembourg has a thriving space industry, currently comprised of 50 companies and research labs and including a growing number of firms that build solutions for the commercial exploration and utilisation of space resources. Approximately 800 employees work in the space sector in Luxembourg, in research and development, manufacturing and operation.
SES, the world’s leading medias and telecommunications group, was established in Luxembourg in 1985 to provide the pioneering satellite-based communication services for which it has since become renowned throughout Europe and around the world. Luxembourg’s business development policy resulted in a significant concentration of dynamic space-related companies in the country.
A growing space ecosystem
The industry today encompasses more than 50 companies and 2 public research organisations (Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and the University of Luxembourg), covering various domains that include:
- The space segment: manufacturing of satellite and instrument structures, system integration of micro-satellites, electric propulsion for satellites, robotic payloads, in-space manufacturing, composites, RF payloads, FPGA.
- The ground segment: ground station development, mechanical and electrical ground support equipment, communication networks, operations.
- The service segment: teleport services, satellite-based media and telecommunications services, risk management services, data analytics, environmental applications and services, aeronautical information services, analytics platform.
A business-oriented space agency
An important factor in positioning the country in the space sector was Luxembourg’s accession to the European Space Agency (ESA) as a full member in 2005. In view of the growing importance of the sector, the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) was set up in 2018 in order to coordinate national space policies, programmes and initiatives. Contrary to many other space agencies, the LSA will not directly conduct research or launch its own space mission, but focus on business development and the creation of economic value and jobs.
Being at the very forefront of realising the potential of the new, commercial space sector, the Luxembourg government launched the audacious SpaceResources.lu initiative in 2016 with the aim of providing a unique legal, regulatory and business environment for private companies that explore and use space resources. Luxembourg became the first country in Europe, and the second in the world, to adopt a legal framework that secures property rights for resources harvested in space. The country has also put in place a range of measures to meet the needs of these highly innovative companies.
As of November 2020, Luxembourg is home to the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC) – the only innovation centre in the world exclusively focused on space resources utilisation. It is a joint creation of ESA, LSA and the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) that hosts the young centre. The industry-oriented approach of ESRIC is quite unique and attracts massive interest from companies. The centre will set up a programme aimed at supporting early-stage start-ups in the field and even incubate promising young ventures at its premises.