Space has always attracted dreamers and visionaries, and a myriad of technological breakthroughs have come out of their efforts to make their dreams come true. However, the personality of the dreamers has changed in recent times. “It used to be scientists and engineers dreaming about space – today it is entrepreneurs,” says LuxSpace’s Managing Director Edgar Milic. “Our role is to enable the space ambitions of both business leaders and institutions.”
It used to be scientists and engineers dreaming about space – today it is entrepreneurs.
LuxSpace is Luxembourg’s only prime contractor and developer of microsatellites. The company also offers integrated application and data services, bundled together with its platforms upon customer request, and offers micro-components for satellites. “Microsatellites are very powerful tools for space missions,” Mr Milic points out. “They are bigger and more powerful than miniaturized cubesats and allow for the use of top class payloads.” LuxSpace’s flagship programme is Triton, a product line making the news recently thanks to the ground-breaking ESAIL satellite, built on the Triton-2 platform optimised to support high performance vessel tracking.
ESAIL: Making the sea safer
Launched in September 2020, the ESAIL satellite was developed in partnership with the European Space Agency, the Luxembourg Space Agency and exactEarth as the end customer. Its objective is to improve the next generation of satellite-based services for the maritime sector. ESAIL is used by exactEarth for monitoring ships using AIS and enables institutions and commercial maritime traffic to transport their goods safely. After the first weeks of operation, the satellite was able to capture 2 million automatic identification system (AIS) emitted by 70,000 different ships in one single day – a feat that is exceptional in terms of satellite capability. exactEarth called it “the best AIS satellite ever built”.
LuxSpace is now working on its next, highly scalable platform within the Triton product line, called Triton-X. Even more powerful than its predecessor, it will be able to sustain missions for maritime, aeronautical and terrestrial applications. “Beyond its versatility and modularity, Triton-X will also be price competitive,” Mr Milic points out.
While ESAIL is being exploited by its customer, LuxSpace has 15 years of experience in developing integrated data services that collect data from other satellites which is processed in-house. “We capture 30 million messages from 200,000 ships around the world every day,” Mr Milic explains. “This data flows through our databases and servers, and we then provide it to our customers in the format that suits them.”
We capture 30 million messages from 200,000 ships around the world every day.
The company is also expanding its integrated applications to cover additional fields and new services. “We are working on an integrated solution for port authorities with the capability of monitoring everything that is happening in the port and the traffic in its proximity. Another project, AirTracks, focuses on so-called ESB signals issued by airplanes, which we will process in order to provide flight information for small and medium-sized airports.”
With about 50 employees, LuxSpace is one of the largest space companies in Luxembourg. Mr Milic joined the company as managing director in early 2021 after 12 years at satellite giant SES, also headquartered in Luxembourg. He has seen the space sector grow from a rather small community to a dynamic ecosystem of around 60 businesses and research laboratories.
“This development is due to the inspiring vision of some politicians. They were willing to do what it takes to have the necessary tools in place for the space sector to grow.” He points out that in the last five years, Luxembourg has created a space agency, launched the SpaceResources.lu initiative focusing on the exploration and use of space resources, established a space fund and set up the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC). “The synergies between these instruments have created an enormously rewarding environment that attracts people and companies to Luxembourg.”
The synergies between these instruments have created an enormously rewarding environment that attracts people and companies to Luxembourg.
Mr Milic is also enthusiastic about the interdisciplinary space master set up by the University of Luxembourg, where he teaches space business and space entrepreneurship. “Space opportunities are there, and we are building an environment that is consistent with space dreams and helps companies expand their business footprint as much as possible on growing markets. In my opinion, it is great to be here.”
Photos: © LuxSpace