After Thales Alenia Space and Sonaca, among others, Charleroi is going to welcome Aerospacelab and its satellite-production Megafactory. This Walloon gem is going to erect a state-of-the-art factory in Marcinelle, on the former site of Asex, in the heart of one of the country’s first historic industrial hubs. The plan is to produce 500 mini-satellites per year there.
This start-up, which was created in Mont-Saint-Guibert in 2018, is a real rising star in Wallonia’s digital and technological economy. It designs, manufactures and operates planetary-observation satellites for its own purposes or on behalf of its clients (which are both public and private).
This ‘new space’ gem also develops software tools for processing and interpreting millions of data collected by satellites. This is commonly known as satellite intelligence and is essential for understanding how to protect the environment, agriculture, how to protect sites, surveillance, security and defence.
‘New space’: This movement is linked to the emergence of a private space industry, particularly under the impetus of Elon Musk, and aims to create satellites that are lighter and, as a result, cheaper to produce, which also makes it possible to send more satellites into space.
The Charleroi Megafactory
The initial foundations for this high-tech factory have already been laid.
It will be the largest satellite-manufacturing factory in Europe, and the third largest in the world, measuring 16,000 m2, including 6000 m2 dedicated to a clean room and laboratories totalling 3,000 m2.
Aerospacelab was inspired by automotive construction, in which standardised products can be adapted to the specific needs of clients. This is why the company is building satellite-manufacturing factories with production lines that employ ready-to-use components.
Employment is a key aspect for the region – 400 employees will need to be recruited and trained. The company is currently compiling a list of local training centres, in order to verify whether they cover the profiles being sought. However, in order to complement the offer with modules that specifically relate to their activities, Aerospacelab will invest in specialised training in Wallonia, in collaboration with its partners.
A factory in Louvain-La-Neuve
Driven by a recent fundraising endeavour totalling €40 million, this Walloon gem did not hesitate to launch construction in Charleroi, in order to start producing satellites. A first 2000 m2 factory, including a satellite-production line, is about to open in Louvain-La-Neuve. It has the capacity to produce 24 satellites per year. This site will employ 140 people.
Aerospacelab received financial support from the Walloon region through the SRIW and Sambrinvest projects for the real-estate component.
The start-up believes that operating in a reasonably sized region like Wallonia allows companies to move quickly. It is easy to gain access to decision-makers and move the project forward.
Wallonia and space:
Although Belgium is a small country, when it comes to the space industry, it is the fifth largest contributor to the budget of the ESA (European Space Agency). Wallonia is bolstered by an engaged and dynamic space and aeronautics cluster and is also home to a huge number of internationally renowned space companies and hidden gems, which are located throughout the region, in Liège, Redu, Charleroi and more.
This new factory is an opportunity to further strengthen Wallonia’s position in the space sector and place it at the forefront of technological innovation.
About Skywin Aerospace Cluster of Wallonia