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Luxembourg at the center of the global space map

On May 9th and 10th, more than 5,000 of professionals gathered at the European Convention Center Luxembourg to discuss the latest digital, tech and space trends, and notably Space communications, the increasing use of Data, but also planetary defense and space mining, with experts from all over the world sharing their knowledge and vision.

The second edition of the Space Forum was officially opened by Fabien Amoretti, Co-founder of ICT Spring, who expressed is deep gratitude to the Luxembourg government for its support and participation to the event, and called Luxembourg "the ICT place to be".


Space Communications

Serving as Master of Ceremony of first morning of the Space Forum, Olivier Lemaire, Partner, EY, started his presentation by looking back at the history of the space industry, which moved from focusing only on communication and surveillance to a broader perspective: space mining, resourcing and so much more. "Technology has played a big role, changed and disrupted space communication. And Luxembourg recently showed its dynamism in the space area" added Olivier Lemaire.

Yasrine Ibnyahya, Senior System Engineer, Inmarsat, then gave a presentation entitled "Enabling innovation in digital space communications" and highlighted the fact that now her company focuses on core technology and removes investments barriers by partnering with new players. She added: "We also put emphasis on insights, by making sure we actually value the data, and make it available to customers. Satellites are not about rocket science anymore, but are all about data science".

Then, Patrick Biewer, CEO of LuxGovSat, a public joint-venture between the Luxembourg government and SES which was created in 2015, focused on the key drivers for governmental satellite communications. "The complex and non-predictable European and global security environments are very challenging for our industry" he started, highlighting that the value proposition it provides to governments is composed of security, accessibility, flexibility and entrepreneurship.

"Space Communications: Broadband for the Other 3 Billion" was the name of the presentation of Steve Collar, CEO, O3b Networks, whose goal is to provide connectivity to people on the global basis. "In two and a half years, we have connected more than 35 countries" underlined Steve Collar. The CEO defines his mission as fixing the connectivity issues all over the world, and therefore making the world a better place, as it generates economic and social developments. These solutions are delivered via a constellation of satellites.

Jacques Breton, Senior Vice President, Sales & Customers, Arianespace, then took the stage to focus on success enablers. "Currently, people think there is a lack of launch solutions, but there is actually lack of cheap and reliable launchers. Arianespace is one of the most reliable operators with 78 successes in a row" told Mr. Breton, highlighting the fact that many new players are coming, thanks to a lot of technology breakthroughs, such as the reduction of the mass of the satellites, a large variety of sizes and the possibility to reuse launchers.

Olivier Lemaire also moderated a round table which brought together Sam Scimemi (Director for International Space Station (ISS), NASA Headquarters), Frédéric Touret (Alliance Manager, Luxtrust), Yasrine Ibnyahya and Jacques Breton showing the expansion of the space market with many different actors and players sitting at the table. "Many questions are asked, but not many answers are provided. There are a lot of requests for launch solutions and we need to be able to provide them whatever the demand" started Mr. Breton. According to Yasrine Ibnyahya, the industry benefits from lower costs and the entry of new players: "We are able to test more, we don't have to be as conservative as we were". Sam Scimemi insisted on the fact that we are now able to launch new initiatives around the Moon and Asteroids, and highlighted the importance of private-public partnerships. Finally, Frédéric Touret explained the benefits of quantum physics when it comes to security, and that the problem is limitations in distance: "And that is where space comes into the game. We need a relay in space".

Aarti Holla, Secretary General, EMEA Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) then focused on the links between Satcoms and the 5G Ecosystem. "If you are in the ICT and Telco industries, 5G is the theme of the day. Governments all over the world are interested in it". According to her, the space sector is innovating more than ever, and private investment is a good way to start the 5G discussion: reach & inclusion, resilience, quality & cost are the main requirements, through a collaborative approach.

The morning session ended with Dr. Amin Salari, Chairman of Board at Iran Aviation and Space Industries Association, presenting the technology capabilities of Iranian Space SMEs. The association creates an appropriate structure to cooperate as consortium and develops relevant international relationships.


Data Fusion

The afternoon session started with a presentation by Dr. Nicolaus Hanowski, Head, Ground Segment & Mission, ESA, who notably presented EU initiative Copernicus. "We live in an unprecedented era, with satellites being launched every 3 or 4 months. We have also seen an overall investement of 6 to 7 million over the last 10 years" he added. According to him, one of the biggest challenges is data management: we need to provide data continuity, share them, make sure they are reliable, work on near real-time data, etc. "Adding more satellites to the system contributes therefore to the data ecosystem" he concluded.

In order to making sense of the world through the lens of location, Peter Kürpick, Executive Vice President & Chief Platform Officer, HERE, took the stage. "30 years ago we were using paper maps, today, every car has a navigation system, and so do mobile phones" he started. Peter then highlighted the need – and huge demand – for precision data, as 10 billion people will be living in 200 megacities in the upcoming years. "Satellite imagery therefore plays a crucial role to bring this precision data to consumers" told the Chief Platform Officer.

To address the challenges of integrated the Internet of Things with satelites, the organizers welcomed Dr. Maria Rita Palattella, Senior R&T Associate in the Environmental Research and Innovation (ERIN) department, LIST. She first insisted on the fact that now we cannot live without connected devices: "The number of IoT connected devices will surpass mobile devices in 2018 and the business opportunities brought by IoT are therefore immense". Satellites also have the potential to help IoT grow by increasing coverage, reliability, speed, and lowering cost. "Satellites are cost-effective solutions for IoT connectivity needs". She then presented the M2MSAT project to the audience.

"I grew up during the Apollo days, and thought we would already be on the Moon by now" started Gary L. Martin, Director of Partnerships at NASA Ames. In his presentation, he focused on the importance of partnerships for the NASA: "It allows to access capabilities under collaborative agreements, it expands our overall landscape of space activity, and it spurs innovation". The NASA partners with all kinds of organizations, as more people means more feedback, and also more innovation. Gary L. Martin then presented the core competencies and activities at Ames.

The NASA Ames Director of Partnerships then joined Dr. Nicolaus Hanowski and Peter Kürpick for a round table discussion moderated by Alexey Belyakov, Managing Director at Skolkovo Aerospace. The space experts exchanged on the importance of data and collaboration – and consolidation – between companies: space, startups, and ICT.

After a well-deserved break, Christophe Fourtet, CTO & co-founder of Sigfox gave a presentation entitled: "Is satellite a relevant complement for terrestrial massive IoT?". He went through the IoT satellite connectivity market, listed the different advantages of using satellites when it comes to the Internet of Things: tracking moving assets, securing better, improving uptime, optimizing resources and managing people remotely.

"From Asteroids to Aliens: How AI Makes Sense of Big Data" was the name of Jaap Zuiderveld's presentation. The VP EMEAI of NVIDIA, started by saying that space programs need to process massive amounts of data, and insisted on the importance of graphics processing units, or GPU. He then explained how effective AI and Deep learning have proved to be for researchers, scientists and organizations investigating the mysteries of the universe. "Three teams of researchers using GPU-powered deep learning spent the summer tackling asteroid-related challenges at NASA’s Frontier Development Lab, in partnership with the SETI Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to researching life in the universe" he concluded.

The organizers then welcomed Dr. Ali Sadeghi, Director General of remote sensing department, Iranian Space Agency, who shared his perspective on space cooperation opportunities in Iran. The missions of the agencies are notably to cooperate in the execution of regional, and international space projects but also planning for strengthening national, regional and international communication networks.

Two companies then participated in the Startups insights session. Sylvain Arts, Sales & Marketers at Earthlab focused on "Spatial Big Data & Deep Learning Factory" sharing his Luxembourg approach for empowering strategic decisions. Masayuki Sono and Ostap Rudakevych from Clouds AO gave a presentation entitled "Connecting Horizons: Towards a New Typology in Space Architecture" and presented some of their design projects for settlement in space.

The first day of the Space Forum ended with a presentation by François Rivasseau, who's the Head of Security Policy Division, EEAS for the European External Action Service’s Special Envoy for Space. He insisted on the fact that a unique space strategy is needed in order for Europe to continue its space development and innovation. "We need to expand the space world and create an actual space community" added Mr. Rivasseau. He also listed some of the challenges faced by the space industry: making the private sector more active in Europe, and also the must-needed legal framework. "2017 will be an important year for space exploration" he concluded.