Luxembourg has become a hotspot for space activity in recent years. In fact, the global ‘new space’ movement has seen a prioritisation of space strategy. Besides setting in place a legal framework for the industry, Luxembourg has established international collaborations and offers specialist and technical support to startups at a national level.
The University of Luxembourg’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) has been enabling companies to achieve success in space almost since their inception in 2009. Through their Partnership Programme, a number of companies active in space collaborated with SnT to transfer knowledge created in the centre’s labs directly into their commercial activities. SnT’s very first partner in 2010 were space veterans SES, and have since added OHB Luxspace, Databourg, Redwire Space, Spacety and Lift Me Off to their list of collaborations, with many projects funded by the European Space Agency (ESA).
With a highly interdisciplinary team, SnT has experts in the fields of space systems, robotics, satellite communications, computer vision, small satellites, concurrent engineering, in-situ resource utilisation, as well as distributed systems and cybersecurity for space, which enables them to collaborate on a project with all possible angles covered. “For start-ups especially, having a team that encompasses all of these competencies from the get-go would be very difficult. Offering the ability for them to partner with us to have access to wider expertise not only enables them to fill their missing fields, but allows them to focus their efforts on their main, in-house specialty,” says Prof. Djamila Aouada, computer vision expert and head of SnT’s Computer Vision, Imaging and Intelligence (CVI2) research group. In recent years, her group has collaborated on industrial projects with partner companies including Artec 3D and Lift Me Off.
“It’s rewarding to see the results of our work being used in industrial settings, changing the way that people work”
Prof. Andreas Hein, Head of the Space Systems Engineering research group at SnT
A helping hand in their cutting-edge research is being able to test their innovations in real-life environments. SnT has seven labs dedicated to researching and developing space innovations, with companies and government actors now able to test their technologies within the environments. Covering many possible testing scenarios, their labs can simulate life-like lunar conditions in the LunaLab, test the movement of in-orbit robotics in the microgravity environment of the Zero-G Lab, or work within their CubeSatLab to develop nano-satellites. One of their newest lab combines the power of all the SnT space labs into the 5G-Space Lab, a platform that allows for testing of next-generation communications scenarios between the Earth, Moon and orbiting satellites. “Space requires high levels of robustness and resilience. Therefore, perception and control algorithms, as well as mechanical designs, need to be thoroughly tested. Using realistic environments is crucial and is the way to succeed in any future space missions,” says Prof. Miguel Olivares-Mendez, head of the LunaLab, Zero-G Lab and Space Robotics (SpaceR) research group. His group currently collaborates with partner companies Redwire and Spacety on industrial projects for in-orbit servicing and active debris removal respectively, in addition to working on more than a dozen ongoing fundamental research projects related to space.
SnT’s newest space expert, Prof. Andreas Hein, is heading up the newly established Space Systems Engineering (SpaSys) research group. An aerospace engineer by training, Prof. Hein joined SnT as a result of the appeal of the Grand Duchy’s space sector. “I really like Luxembourg’s ‘can-do’ attitude and pioneering spirit. I want my research to make an impact in the space ecosystem,” he says. As a group, SpaSys are actively seeking out partnerships within the framework of the Partnership Programme, particularly in the area of space systems, but also in the broader area of systems engineering, including sustainable design. “It’s rewarding to see the results of our work being used in industrial settings, and experiencing first-hand how this changes the way that people work. It really shows how research can deliver value to partners and impact society in the shorter term,” he continued.
As we look to the future, SnT is helping to train tomorrow’s space experts through the Interdisciplinary Space Master (ISM) programme. To approach the needs of today’s space sector, the ISM focuses on both the technical and business side of space missions and operations. The programme was developed in partnership with the Luxembourg Space Agency, by SnT alongside the Faculty of Science, Technology and Medicine (FSTM). With a diverse approach to learning, the Master is helping generate a talent pool of professionals who will be fulfilling the needs of the country’s booming commercial space industry.
Interesting in partnering with SnT? Find out more here: partnerwithsnt.uni.lu
Editor’s note: This article is brought to you by SnT and reflects only the opinion of the author.
This article was first published in the Silicon Luxembourg magazine. Read the full digital version of the magazine on our website, here. You can also choose to receive a hard copy at the office or at home. Subscribe now.