Up-and-coming Belgian satellite manufacturer Aerospacelab offers high-performance, low earth orbit (LEO) satellite platforms that can accommodate various payload types, including for positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) applications.
Benoit Deper, the company’s founder and CEO, told Inside GNSS, “We build satellites and we sell them, with or without a payload. We can simply deliver the platform and you do what you want with it. But we also do satellite services. We have our own constellation, so if you just want the high-precision data, we can provide that. It really depends on what you want.
“These are 150kg microsatellites,” Deper said. “We’re doing low earth orbit, LEO, but we have prototypes for MEO [medium earth orbit] and GEO [geosynchronous earth orbit] as well. The service we’re providing is largely for earth observation purpose; And we are also providing telecomms services. For telecomms, for the moment, we usually rely on our partners for the payload side. All of our recent satellites also have the capability to host PNT payloads, so if you have one of those we can find a way to help you.”
Aerospacelab turned heads a year ago (2022) when it was announced the company had raised 40 million euros in a funding round led by Airbus Ventures and XAnge, a European venture capital firm based in Paris and Munich. Additional investors in the round included BNP Paribas Private Equity, Octave & Miroslaw Klaba, Noshaq, Sambrinvest, a Belgian venture capital firm, SRIW, the investment arm of Belgium’s Wallonia region, and Belaero. Altogether, Aerospacelab has raised a total of 60 million euros since Deper founded the company in 2018.
“We got a big boost just about one year ago,” Deper said, “and if you want to know what happened to the money, it’s already spent. It went to the growth of the company. Last year, we went from a staff of 70 to over 200 people.” And the company is still hiring, now advertising over 50 openings on its website.
“The talent market is quite good,” said Deper. “Most of the 100 plus people we hired last year were engineers and scientists. We didn’t expect and we didn’t have any shortage in quality applications. We are going to continue. The target for this year is another 100 new hires, although it might be that the demographic of the newcomers is going to shift a bit more towards business development. Right now most of the payroll is engineering.”
That’s a lot of engineering, and, it seems, there is plenty of business. Currently, Aerospacelab is designing, manufacturing, integrating and testing 24 platforms per year, at an extremely competitive performance-to-cost ratio. The company’s current factory, with its 2,000 square meters of working space and a 600-square-meter ISO7 cleanroom, is located in Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, near Brussels. In 2022, to company announced its commitment to build a new satellite factory, with a yearly production capacity of 500 satellites, which will make it the largest satellite manufacturing plant in Europe. The facility will be built by Sambrinvest in Charleroi.