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The questions that Elon Musk asks are being answered in Flanders

Space travel as a cornerstone of Industry 4.0

The space industry is a growing sector within Industry 4.0. Today, the global market represents 400 billion dollars, a figure that can grow to 2.700 billion dollars by 2045. According to Kris Vanderhauwaert, Managing Director of the Flemish Space Industry (VRI), the sector is not only economically important, it also has a great social relevance.

The impact of space travel

“Space travel helps to tackle societal challenges. We all saw the floods in Belgium and Germany this summer. Well, we knew there would be catastrophic rainfall thanks to data from satellites.

Space can also be an important factor in the green deal, the digitalization of society, and in our response to climate change.

In addition, space travel can also improve mobility. We are all stuck in traffic jams, so, sooner or later, road user charges will become a fact. They will be calculated with the help of telephone masts and 5G, but also with satellite data. So you need space infrastructure to manage this effectively.

Another example of the social importance is forest management. Using Earth observation data, we can see where forests are disappearing and where they are being added.”

Baking bread on Mars

The engine driving the space industry in Flanders is called – appropriately – the Flemish Space Industry (VRI). It groups 42 Flemish companies, and research and educational institutions that are active in the sector. VRI sees bringing people around the table as a crucial task, bridging the gap between the space industry and other sectors. Kris Vanderhauwaert:

“We met with the pharmaceutical sector and the bio-industry sector to discuss research in a vacuum. In the International Space Station it’s possible to conduct experiments on, say, the protein crystallization of medication for 50,000 euros. We have also collaborated on robotics. After all, the space industry uses robots which you can also deploy, for example, to inspect offshore drilling platforms in the Atlantic Ocean. With a bakery products manufacturer, we are currently thinking about how you can make bread on the moon or on Mars. Investigations are underway into whether wheat can grow underground, where the plant is protected against cosmic radiation.


These efforts are bearing fruit. Take the rockets being launched by Elon Musk, with the ultimate goal of putting people on Mars. To fly the rocket you need semiconductors, technology, control systems, electronics, and chips.

You need to know how to protect people from cosmic rays, and what the impact of microgravity is on the heart. How can astronauts make calls or surf the internet? The questions that Elon Musk is asking are being answered in Flanders. Our technology is in every link of that value chain.”

Kris Vanderhauwaert

Kris Vanderhauwaert - Managing Director of the Flemish Space Industry (VRI)

A star location for your space travel conference

According to Kris Vanderhauwaert, Flanders possesses unique assets for a space conference.

“You’ll find the experts that you need for a successful conference in Flanders. Through research mandates, talented doctoral or post-doctoral students get the opportunity to start their careers in aerospace.

The VRI is also setting up Living Labs for the use of space data. And we stimulate cooperation between companies and research institutions in highly innovative scientific and applied research.

So, there is a lot of know-how available, which we share at events and workshops. We organize seminar for experts, combined with a programme for the general public.

We participate in specialized trade fairs, such as Le Bourget in Paris and SpaceTechExpo in Bremen. This allows our companies and experts to get to know each other’s products and technology. It also creates new networks.”

Industry 4.0

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