The government is accelerating in the space sector with the creation of a “space campus” which will bring together all the private and public players on two sites, in Kockelscheuer and Belval.
He announced it a few months ago, here he is on the launch pad: a large space campus will soon be created in Luxembourg, with the ambition of making it “the future center of gravity of the ecosystem space”, described the Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot, yesterday morning, during the official presentation of the concept, alongside the Minister of Higher Education and Research, Claude Meisch.
Established on two sites, in Kockelscheuer and Belval, this “space campus” will be exclusively dedicated to the space sector and will have to ensure the competitive position of companies and public research institutions in this area, while facilitating the installation and grouping of actors local and international.
A sector in which Luxembourg is beginning to weigh
“The new campus is in line with what we have already undertaken in the space sector since the launch of the Spaceresources.lu initiative in 2016”, underlines Claude Meisch. Namely: the Luxembourg Space Agency founded in 2018, the interdisciplinary master’s degree in the space field opened at the university in 2019, or the European Center of Innovation for Space Resources, created within the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) in 2020, and of which the European Space Agency (ESA) is a strategic partner.
A booming sector in which Luxembourg is starting to weigh in: “The interest in the Luxembourg ecosystem is considerable, we realize this at the international level”, notes Franz Fayot. “In barely six years, the Luxembourg space sector has developed strongly and today has 75 companies and research institutes – only around fifty before the pandemic – for a total of 1,200 employees”, he continues.
For Claude Meisch, “little Luxembourg has great ambitions”, but also has assets that larger countries lack: “We have a head start, because we started a little earlier than the others , and we are also more flexible and responsive.”
A start-up incubator in Kockelscheuer
It is the land of the former Poudrerie and its seven hectares in Kockelscheuer which was chosen to house space activities directly linked to companies. The new ParcLuxite will thus include both office space and shared technical infrastructure, including a 3,000 m2, and a start-up incubator. It will also house the headquarters of the Luxembourg Space Agency. The laying of the first stone is scheduled for 2024, for commissioning by 2026.
Belval will host, for its part, on two hectares, all that concerns public research, i.e. the laboratories of the interdisciplinary Center for security, reliability and confidence (SnT) of the university and the European Center of innovation for LIST space resources. A brand new building will come out of the ground, opposite the open car park, near the Maison du savoir, the move of the last equipment from the Kirchberg campus being planned for 2027 or 2028.
The Minister of the Economy believes that this future “space campus” “will strengthen the visibility and attractiveness of Luxembourg on the European and international scenes, with economic players as well as the scientific community”. The total budget for the project has not been disclosed.
The LunaLab, a unique facility
The University of Luxembourg’s LunaLab, hidden in the basement of the Kirchberg campus, is one of the few facilities in the world to simulate lunar conditions to test applications such as the autonomous navigation of lunar robots, the interaction between robots, extraction or manipulation of the lunar surface.
In this dark room of 80 m2, the ground was covered with 20 tons of basalt gravel to reconstruct the typical bedrock of our natural satellite, with its craters and its relief, and to allow students and researchers to test their vehicles in real conditions. It is equipped with twelve state-of-the-art sensors with which they follow the progress of their automated programs and the movements of the robot, to the nearest millimeter, on screens, from the next room.