Aerospacelab to build “megafactory” in Belgium
SAN FRANCISCO – Belgian startup Aerospacelab announced plans June 14 to establish a “megafactory” large enough to produce 500 satellites annually.
Aerospacelab plans to operate two manufacturing plants in Belgium. The new plant will be located in Charleroi, roughly 40 kilometers from the company’s existing factory in Ottignies-Louvain-La-Neuve, which is designed to produce as many as 24 satellite per year.
In February, Aerospacelab announced a 40 million euro funding round.
“One of the stated goals of our last fundraising was to scale up Aerospacelab’s production capacity to be able to serve the constellations market along with our needs,” Erika Verbelen, Aerospacelab marketing manager, told SpaceNews by email. “The factory in Charleroi, which will be able to produce up to 500 satellites yearly, is the industrial tool enabling manufacturing of large series of spacecraft at an unparalleled pace and a means to reduce unit costs. Belgium, located at the heart of Europe, was a logical choice to implement such capability.”
Benoît Deper, Aerospacelab CEO and founder, said in a statement, “We’ve been inspired by the automotive industry where standardized products still have the possibility to be adjusted to specific needs. We are setting up satellite manufacturing plants, with production lines using ‘off-the-shelf’ components and specific instruments when needed.”
At both Belgian factories, Aerospacelab will own and operate “testing facilities relevant for satellite manufacturing, which allows vertical integration and as a result agility,” Deper added.
Aerospacelab held a ceremony June 14 to mark the start of construction of the Charleroi factory. Attending were: Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for internal market; Belgian deputy prime minister Petra De Sutter; Belgian Defence Minister Ludivine De Donder; Thomas Dermine, Belgian state secretary for economic recovery and strategic investment; Mathieu Michel, Belgian state secretary for digitalization; Walloon government vice president Willy Borsus; and Charleroi Mayor Paul Magnette.
The Aerospacelab megafactory “project is the perfect illustration of the essential role a VC can play to revitalize our economy and ensure that Wallonia and Belgium stay at the forefront of technology in Europe and in the world,” Borsus said in a statement.
The Charleroi factory, where Aerospacelab plans to start manufacturing 150- to 700-kilogram satellites in early 2025, includes a 6,000-square-meter cleanroom and 3,000-square-meter laboratory space.
Aerospacelab plans to begin producing satellites weighing 150 to 400 kilograms later this year in the 2,000-square-meter Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve factory.
Aerospacelab ‘s first satellite launched in 2021. The European Space Agency has awarded Aerospacelab contracts for two additional missions. The first is slated to launch later this year.
“Aerospacelab has additional ongoing contracts with institutional and commercial customers that support the strategic decision to invest in a megafactory,” Verbelen said.
Aerospacelab, established in 2018, employs more than 140 people full time.
Correction: This article previously said the Charleroi factory was 6,000 square feet. That is only the clean room, however.