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On 9 December, SnT resumed the Space Café Luxembourg, the premier event series gathering the members of the space community in the Grand Duchy. The dedicated evening, which took place at SnT’s facilities on Campus Kirchberg, was the first of its kind since 2019. Its theme was “The Small Satellites Revolution”, with a special focus on the dominant role of CubeSats in the NewSpace economy.

During the event, which was organised by Dr. Jan Thoemel, Head of the CubeSatLab, the event participants could also join a tour of the University of Luxembourg’s space laboratories. These are key facilities for SnT, and a valuable learning resource for students of the Interdisciplinary Space Master (ISM), a degree co-hosted by SnT and the Faculty of Science, Technology and Medicine (FSTM). In practice, the labs are used for the real-life testing of new technologies developed by our researchers and within the framework of our partner projects.

Attendees were treated to a series of three talks from guest speakers Edgar Milic of OHB LuxSpace, and Roger Hunter of NASA Ames, as well as graduate student of the University of Luxembourg’s Interdisciplinary Space Master, Rui Zong. Introducing the talks for the evening, Zong discussed her experience as part of the team of students who designed the CubeSat mission Goldcrest. Originally from China, Zong interned at the Luxembourg Space Agency and joined the first cohort of the Interdisciplinary Space Master in 2019 after having completed her bachelor’s studies in mechanical design. “The goal of our mission was to design a CubeSat able to capture the soil moisture of the Earth’s surface. This type of mission is very useful to the agricultural sector,” introduced Zong. She then detailed the mission steps, and characteristics of the CubeSat mission, named after the national bird of Luxembourg, before concluding by explaining how the second cohort have built on their initial work with another mission.

Graduate student Rui Zong presenting the CubeSat mission Goldcrest, developed by the students of the Interdisciplinary Space Master.

Edgar Milic, chief executive at LuxSpace then discussed “The Excitement of Space to Build Up Value and Business Return”. With 20 years of experience in the space, technology and governmental sectors, Milic currently leads a team in accomplishing the strategic ambition of integrating microsatellite production with the application capabilities developed by LuxSpace for over a decade. He explained how space is an important aspect of our future, through its exploration potential, economic potential, its importance for entrepreneurship and even cybersecurity. He also recapped some of LuxSpace’s achievements over the last few years, and highlighted the great success that Luxembourg has experienced as a result of the NewSpace movement – with 70 new companies opening and 900 jobs being created in the Grand Duchy alone.

Roger Hunter, a program manager for NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology department, delivered the keynote session. Hunter has over 40 years of experience in the US Department of Defense, Commercial and Government Space Missions. His speech, entitled “A Review of NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program” delved into the steps NASA have taken to embrace small spacecraft, how they are used and how they will continue to benefit exploration and scientific discovery. As a specialist in CubeSats, Hunter explained how the movement towards small satellites has allowed missions to be automated. New technologies are developed in partnership with research institutions and companies, with Hunter passing over the technology when it’s ready to be used in real-life scenarios and missions.

After finishing up his presentation with a video behind NASA’s work, Hunter showed a final picture of the Moon’s surface that still bears the footprints of Neil Armstrong from his walk on the lunar surface over 50 years ago. He then addressed the ISM students in the room, exhorting them to leave footprints of their own in the areas they hold passion for.

Interested in knowing more? Check out the event page and the picture gallery.