Europe enters the private space war at the hands of the ‘Belgian Elon Musk

Benoit Deper created “boring” Aerospacelab from the slowness of space agencies like NASA. He has already been named the ‘ Belgian Elon Musk ‘.


The new struggle for commercial control of space , embodied by businessmen such as Elon Musk  or Jeff Bezos, is coming to Europe at the hands of the Belgian Benoit Deper , who aspires to turn his company into the largest satellite factory on the continent and offer the European Union its long-awaited strategic autonomy.

At just 36 years old, and after working for NASA in the United States and then for the European Space Agency, Benoit Deper runs Aerospacelab , his own satellite company that he founded in 2017 because he was “bored” that in government agencies everything was “too slow”.

“When you start a new project (in public agencies) you must have political support and you need time to get financing until everything is resolved. And it usually takes between five and 15 years to finish your satellite,” says Deper at the end of a visit to the factory of his company, in the Belgian city of Leuven-la-Neuve.

Instead, this businessman explains that, with commercial companies, it is possible to complete the entire process in six months or a year, “since once you have the money, you can go fast because you make the decision,” he says.

However, it recognizes the importance of public space agencies when developing research projects that require a lot of investment.

“I think we need each other. Agencies go where there is no commercial purpose, like sending people or robots to Mars , for example . You can’t make money doing this, it’s pure science and it should be funded by the agencies,” he says.

Deper belongs to a booming industry known as “the new space ,” an emerging global private sector that includes companies developing cheaper aerospace technologies, such as Musk’s “SpaceX” and Bezos’ “Blue Origin.”

Although he recognizes them as pioneers in their sector, the founder of Aerospacelab says he does not feel fully identified with these personalities: “We are much smaller than them and I think we are also less crazy,” he says ironically.

Aerospacelab manufactures satellites to sell to other companies and institutions as well as for his own company. With them, it collects and markets data and images on an infinite number of topics (meteorology, agriculture or control of critical infrastructures, among others), and offers communication services and resources that, for example, can be used in sensitive fields such as defense and security. security.