Kris Vanderhauwaert

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The milestone of Kris Vanderhauwaert

Kris Vanderhauwaert is Managing Director of the Flemish Space Industry (VRI). The organisation not only unites over forty space companies and research institutions; it also reaches out to other industries, turning space technology into a tool for fighting climate change and making strides in materials science. “If an object survives being launched into space: that’s a seal of excellence like no other.”

Uses space technology to fight climate change

Whether he’s talking to the European Space Agency to ensure that VRI members stay top of mind or listening to a lecture on rocket retrieval by SpaceX’s Tom Mueller: Kris Vanderhauwaert never loses his sense of wonder. It was ignited when he saw Frank De Winne being sent to space in 2009. “To be only a few kilometres from his spacecraft and see years of hard work come to fruition is an indescribable feeling. So, I’m thrilled that we are now at the dawn of a new space age, with plans for a return to the Moon and for a mission to Mars. As a milestone for humanity, space exploration can’t be underestimated in its potential to shape our future.”

From prestigious to practical

The VRI’s mission is to connect the dots. “We bring companies together so they can propel each other forward. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.” As a catalyst for this mindset of tearing down walls, Kris considers the new space movement another important milestone. “Visionary entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have created an influx of private capital into the space industry and introduced completely new business models. Space travel used to be a stand-alone thing, a prestige project for governments; now it is a means to enhance our quality of life.”

“Space travel used to be a prestige project for governments; now it is a means to enhance our quality of life.”

Kris Vanderhauwert

Sourdough for Mars missions

From researching how gravity affects the heart to using space robots to inspect offshore drilling platforms: while outer space may be a vacuum, the industry clearly doesn’t operate in one. Kris sees infinite possibilities for collaboration. “One of the most fascinating panel discussions I’ve ever attended was about baking bread on Mars. If we travel there, astronauts should have more food options than freeze-dried fruit and salads. Fresh bread can be an important psychological anchor, but it would have to be sourdough. Yeast doesn’t respond well to the unusual environment there. And there’s the question of water purification, too, which is often overlooked. Such multidisciplinary discussions are extremely inspiring to me.”

“Multidisciplinary discussions are extremely inspiring to me.”

Moreover, the space industry helps tackle broader societal issues. “Working in the sector, you can really make a difference. After all, we use space infrastructure to monitor desertification, optimise marine shipping routes and reduce fuel consumption, track changes in vegetation, build the 5G network our emergency services rely on, predict floods, and so on.”

“We use space infrastructure to monitor desertification, optimise marine shipping routes, predict floods, and so on.”

Collaboration at the heart of every success

“No company can develop everything from start to finish in the space industry. Teamwork, both nationally and internationally, is the cornerstone of every project. Moreover, the multidisciplinary nature of space exploration requires experts from various fields to come together. Conferences facilitate discussions that lead to new missions or research ideas. We have a great conference infrastructure in Flanders. Taking the train to and from Paris, London or Amsterdam is a breeze, airport-to-venue distances are short, our strong cultural offer allows for interesting evening programmes, and we have a rich culinary tradition. Conferences not only give participants, but the industry at large, energy and momentum.”

Schouwburg Kortrijk - (c) Mark Depaepe

What’s your milestone?

Set it with a conference in Flanders.

Just like Kris Vanderhauwaert, as a researcher, scientist, entrepreneur or policy maker, you want to set a milestone. A conference in Flanders can make an important contribution to your goal. It allows you to tap into the passion and expertise of insightful minds, bringing you another step closer to achieving your own milestone.

As a service of VISITFLANDERS Convention Bureau, our experts reflect together with you on the positive, long-term impact of your conference. Want to know more about this exclusive service, free of charge for your association? Click the button below.

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