Home to Europe’s largest satellite factory
Ever since QinetiQ Space NV business was established in 1983, Belgium has been a focal point for space-related businesses in Europe. QinetiQ Space – now owned by Redwire (an American company) – provides critical space infrastructure to civil and commercial space customers, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (Belspo).
The race for space
Over the years, a large cluster of space expertise has developed across the country, including the satellite manufacturer Aerospacelab. The company, which was only established in 2018 in Belgium, recently made headlines when it announced the construction of Europe’s largest satellite manufacturing facility. At the time of the announcement, Benoît Deper, Aerospacelab CEO and founder, said “We’ve been inspired by the automotive industry where standardised products still have the possibility to be adjusted to specific needs. We are setting up satellite manufacturing plants, with production lines using ‘off-the-shelf’ components and specific instruments when needed.”
The decision follows a surge in demand for larger satellites from its customers, which include major international space agencies, foreign governments and private players, such as telecoms operators. Benoît Deper went on to explain that the company had finally decided to build its new mega-factory near Charleroi, not far from its current site in Louvain-la-Neuve. “Our goal is to make a real positive impact on the world by making geospatial intelligence actionable and affordable.”
The new 16,000 m² factory (9,000 m² of workshops and 7,000 m² of offices), which will employ 500 people and be capable of producing 500 satellites per year, is being built on the emblematic Acec site, once one of the epicentres of economic and industrial activity in Charleroi.
“Our new contracts with institutional and commercial customers support this strategic decision to invest in a megafactory,” adds Erika Verbelen, Marketing Manager at Aerospacelab. “The factory in Charleroi is the industrial tool that will allow us to manufacture a large series of spacecraft at unparalleled pace and reduced unit cost. Belgium, located at the heart of Europe, was a logical choice to implement such a capability.”