People often describe Luxembourg as a country that successfully transformed from a steel industry economy to a major financial center. But the Grand Duchy also managed to build on the success of its local radio and TV broadcaster –RTL- to become a space superpower.
Incepted in Luxembourg in 1985, SES is one of the world’s leading global satellite operators. With its fleet of 55 geostationary telecommunications satellites it reaches 99% of the world’s population. Initially designed with a single mission – to broadcast television channels to European audiences – SES today provides the full range of satellite telecommunications and assorted services in every corner of the world. The company’s customer base consists of media broadcasters, corporations, government agencies and institutions. Its satellites carry close to 6,000 TV and radio channels to an audience of more than 245 million homes worldwide, making SES the world’s leading platform for the distribution of audio-visual media.
We appreciate SES’s early confidence in SpaceX
Pionneering with SpaceX
SES satellites provide a vital communications link for corporations and telecommunications operators around the world. In Asia-Pacific for example, SES satellites deliver internet access to remote areas without terrestrial networks, and in Africa they connect mobile networks. SES satellites are also used by embassies for secure communications networks and by NGOs for emergency communications in disaster areas. In order to harness the growth potential of its developing markets, SES implements the industry’s most ambitious fleet development programme. It is launching several new satellites and has stunned the industry by announcing in March 2011 that it would become one of the first clients of SpaceX, the company created by Elon Musk, also founder of Paypal and Tesla. The SES-8 satellite was put into orbit on December 3rd 2013: a picture perfect flight, and a first geostationary transfer orbit for SpaceX. « We appreciate SES’s early confidence in SpaceX » commented Musk. Three more launches have already been booked. Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer of SES insisted that « reliability, availability and cost remain the critical factors. » As such, being privately owned, SpaceX was able to disrupt the market with lower prices, impressive innovation and higher availability than publicly funded competitors.
A spacial ecosystem
SES has generated a spacial ecosystem, linking companies like GT SATELLITE SYSTEMS, Luxspace, Euro-composite… There is even a « Space Cluster », but this is only a start. And while officials are trying to attract more players from the space industry to Luxembourg, others have already bought their ticket to space. Jean Ries, a Luxembourg national, in 2008 was one of the first to pay the 200.000$ fee for a seat in Virgin Galactic’s space shuttle: « It is the price of a big car, a small boat or a great horse ». Maybe Richard Branson was overselling his latest venture: the first flights have been postponed several times. But whenever they happen – Luxembourg will be a part of it.