Scaling Up For Space

All three firms praised the strong financial support offered by the Luxembourg government through the LuxIMPULSE R&D programme awarded in conjunction with the ESA (Photo © Redwire Space)

Three space tech entrepreneurs explain how the ecosystem is now helping them to scale up.

After the 2016 launch of the initiative in Luxembourg, there was a slew of announcements of new space tech companies starting up or opening subsidiaries in Luxembourg.

A US-based propulsion technology firm called Deep Space Industries was among the first to sign an MoU with the Luxembourg government in 2016. As is not uncommon for such a young and dynamic newspace sector, the firm has since adapted its course. It was bought out by Netherlands firm Bradford Space in 2019 which, drawn by R&D programme LuxIMPULSE and lower production costs, moved production of its water-based electrothermal satellite propulsion systems to the grand duchy.

“We realised the water thrusters we’re building could be built in Luxembourg and could access a wider market here and be built less expensively as well,” says Alexander Finch, Luxembourg operations manager. “You don’t think of Luxembourg as a place to bring manufacture to. But for high tech industries, manufacturing makes a lot of sense.”

Finch explained that the process of scaling up was similar to that of starting out: “The problems are the same.”

“Occasionally, we can compete in terms of quality of life because European lifestyles are quite appealing, or on the basis of doing interesting work.”

Alexander Finch, Luxembourg Operations Manager at Bradford Deep Space Industries


Since competition for tech skills is fierce the world over, hiring skilled staff was one of the biggest scale-up challenges Finch faced. “From a Californian perspective, Luxembourg or European salaries cannot compare,” the manager says, adding that tech salaries in places like California and Boston are “phenomenally high”.

“Occasionally, we can compete in terms of quality of life because European lifestyles are quite appealing, or on the basis of doing interesting work,” the engineer says. Compared to other more isolated European locations where space tech industry is located, Luxembourg has also a certain cache as a small city with good transport connections to the rest of Europe.

Finch proved that perseverance pays off. Bradford Deep Space Industries, as the firm is now known, recently hired engineers from Austria, Romania, and Trier, Germany.

Luxembourg Space Agency promotion

Efforts to raise the profile of space tech activities by the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) are also helping with recruitment. Its presence at global space conferences, regular MoU signings and headline-grabbing progress in legislation, skills and expertise have all helped local space tech employers sell the country to new hires, says Kleos Space CEO Andy Bowyer.

The UK national established his signal and geospatial intelligence firm in Luxembourg in 2017. “There was a lot of build-up around the Luxembourg profile in the last few years,” he says, adding: “The fact that they [the Luxembourg Space Agency] had a pavilion at the International Astronautical Congress and build the profile helps put Luxembourg on the map in terms of recruitment.”

Bowyer’s team is now in a steady state growth phase, having transitioned from R&D into product development over the past 12 months. “Now we’re going into product delivery. We’ve been doing a lot of work on building the infrastructure of the business up,” he says.

Kleos Space took a broader market approach to filling operational roles in Luxembourg. “I think the expectation to bring someone in with direct space experience is unnecessary and too much,” Bowyer says, adding: “Our COO [Heribert Krämer] is ex-RBC, from the banking sector. He worked on developing products and systems around that and he lives in Luxembourg.”

For robotics systems and avionics firm Redwire Space Europe, formerly Made In Space Europe, the last three years have seen the firm scale up from one to 30 staff members. This dramatic growth was enabled by its 2020 acquisition by space infrastructure firm Redwire Space, making it part of a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq.

“There was a lot of build-up around the Luxembourg profile in the last few years.”

Andy Bowyer, CEO of Kleos Space

“We’ve this road that would typically take up to ten years and we did it in three,” says Luxembourg operations manager Jaroslaw Jaworski. The business remains focused on the construction and manufacture of a robotic arm for the satellite servicing market. When looking for talent, Jaworski drew heavily on the University of Luxembourg’s robotics specialists to build a team.

“Those that have the right skills and experience to build things fast and at a high quality, that’s very rare. Fortunately, for us Luxembourg has a very strong university and robotics group at the SnT,” says Jaworski. When recruiting from outside of Luxembourg, the businessman stresses the importance of presenting a good career perspective. It helps that Redwire’s corporation offers recruits an opportunity to grow within the same firm at its multiple subsidiaries.

Another draw is being able to offer candidates interesting work for which you can say “what you build will fly in two years, that’s an argument,” says Jaworski.

Finding space for space

All three firms have moved or are in the process of moving from incubators to new office and laboratory space in Luxembourg. “We spent half a year searching intensively. The issue we have is that the majority of buildings here were constructed for offices or industrial factories. We needed a mix of the two,” says Jaworski. And high rents do not help.

Prior to the initiative, space tech activity had been largely concentrated in Betzdorf, at a campus which hosts Luxembourg’s first satellite operator SES.

Redwire Space Europe received help from the government to secure HS10, a new, 1,100 square metre mixed use site at Cloche d’Or. In 2021, Kleos Space moved to Luxite II, a new building in Kockelscheuer, which the economy ministry signposted them to. Ultimately, Bowyer says the sector could benefit from the creation of a flexible new space campus, in Kockelscheuer. “There’s lots of building space and room to grow,” he says, adding: “It all comes back to the general concept of organic growth through the wider community and facilitating more companies with employees coming together and making Luxembourg an attractive place to work.”

“We’ve this road that would typically take up to ten years and we did it in three.”

Jaroslaw Jaworski, General Manager at Redwire Space Europe


Developing a customer base is critical for sustainable scaling up. The US remains a major market for a large amount of space tech activity and all three firms have a presence in the US to facilitate trans-Atlantic business development. Luxembourg’s diplomatic corps has helped considerably in forging market connections abroad, says Bowyer. He reckons that Luxembourg could do more, however, to develop the domestic market for locally based space products. “We have customers across France, Germany and the UK but no customers here,” says Bowyer.

Redwire Space Europe has secured a first mission with a customer, whose name has not be disclosed, for the first quarter of 2023. “It’s usually very difficult to secure your first customer but fortunately it was pretty fast for us.” Once the technology has been demonstrated, the manager believes that the firm “will have multiple orders in future. Both from this customer and from those wanting to step into this market.”


All three firms praised the strong financial support offered by the Luxembourg government through the LuxIMPULSE R&D programme awarded in conjunction with the ESA. For Redwire Space Europe and Bradford Deep Space Industries, being part of larger entities eased some of the financial strain of the scaling up phase.

Nevertheless, Jaworski believes that Luxembourg could better leverage its venture capital expertise to bring more aggressive investors to Luxembourg to support domestic space tech firms. “The challenge is that European venture capitalists aren’t ready to invest in series A or in space companies. They prefer something safer, series B or C. But in the US, there’s a lot of money in the market and they are not afraid to invest,” he says.

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.

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