New space: building next generation satellites with Aerospacelab

By: Guilhem de Vrégille

The next generation of intelligence satellites is in the making, and Aerospacelab raises very high hopes for European businesses and governments. We’re very proud to lead the Belgian startup’s €11 Million financing round, along with BelAero, CMNE Innov&thic and SRIW.

Lower space is the new space

Aerospacelab develops a constellation of micro-satellites for earth observation and imagery, as well as data analytics for businesses and military intelligence alike. Up to this day, space imagery was obtained by large satellites that navigate in high obits around the globe. With their 30 years programs — and cost per unit over the billion-dollar mark — they leave little opportunity for incremental innovation and agility.

This is about to change with micro-satellites. These miniaturized telescopes are sent by constellations of 15 or 20 into the Low Earth Orbits — much closer to us. They are cheaper (think a million instead of a billion), which allows engineers innovate with limited risks, and are more efficient from a surveillance perspective: the lower orbits the higher the frequency of passage over a given zone. The potentials are huge, and strongly needed in Europe.

5 satellites for starters

With this €11 million fundraising, the startup will be able to launch its first 5 satellites. It will also work hard on developing its artificial intelligence platform, with objectives to analyze massive sets of data and transform them into accurate, objective, real-time intelligence.

It’s easy to understand how imperative it has become for European industries (let alone armies) to rely on their own sources of imagery and analytics for intelligence — and to build a reliable alternative to global leaders, such as US-based, military-funded Palantir.

By offering quality imagery, agility in innovation and lower costs, Aerospacelab will have strong arguments in space. It will also do on the intelligence / data analytics side of things, with predictive insights in real-time, based on high-resolution imagery and multiple external sources. No player in the space industry has managed to combine these features in one product, which makes Aerospacelab one of the most ambitious and promising programs for the years to come.

High potential, under the radars

Benoit is quite an exceptional founder. Both business-savvy and immensely technical — he developed small satellite software infrastructures in the Bay Area before coming back to Europe to work with startups and the European Space Agency, and eventually launching Aerospacelab.

His project caught our attention last year, as we were deep into mapping the space-techs scene. A significant part of my job is to understand what the different players do, and what their challenges are. Benoit’s name kept coming up and I reached out to him. His drive and empathy, his ability to share a vision and, at the same time, get into the most specific details is truly remarkable. And given his traction among industries (insurance, oil & trade, etc.), it seems like I’m not the only one impressed.