Antwerp conquers space

For Antwerp, even space is not the limit. In the first months of 2021, three companies from Antwerp achieved important breakthroughs for the space sector. AMS Belgium provided the sensors for the Perseverance-mission to Mars, Verhaert Masters in Innovation signed a 1.2 million euro contract to support start-ups in space industry, and Antwerp Space installed their ARGO modem onto the International Space Station.

AMS Belgium provides the eyes of Perseverance

On February 18 2021, the people on planet Earth had their eyes on planet Mars. Shortly after entering the Jezero Crater, the Mars-rover Perseverance communicated its first look of its new home: the Red Planet. It provided astonishing footage and photos. We owe those images to AMS Belgium, a company from Antwerp.

The NASA Perseverance rover features 10 images sensors from AMS. All 9 engineering cameras of the rover use their CMV20000 sensor: 6 cameras detect hazard,  2 cameras let Perseverance navigate autonomously, and 1 camera takes pictures of gathered Mars-samples. The 10th camera uses the CMV4000 sensor. It’s the so-called SuperCam, which analyzes rock chemistry.

The CMV products are high-end image sensors, where the development was led by the AMS-team in Antwerp. Its end market is mainly industrial. But the robust technology and the high quality design make them suited for space applications. Thanks to the perseverance of the AMS Belgium-engineers, we now enjoy fantastic footage from the Perseverance-Rover on Mars.

Verhaert supports start-ups for space industry

Verhaert Masters in Innovation will coach promising start-ups in space industry. Together with SpaceTec, the company from Antwerp received 1.2 million euros from Europe, to support research and innovation in space technology. This subsidy is granted by Cassini, an initiative of the European Commission to promote space entrepreneurship from 2021 to 2027.

Verhaert and Space Tec work together on the European Space Hackathons & Mentoring program. This includes 2 hackathons in 2021, and another 4 hackathons in the next 2 years after the contract is renewed.

Sam Waes, program manager OpenLab at Verhaert Masters in Innovation: “We have already built up experience across Europe, with target groups inside and outside the space sector. During the hackathons, we stimulate human interaction and give start-ups access to a large group of mentors.”

Modem of Antwerp Space installed on ISS

Argo team, copyright: Antwerp Space

Early 2020: a rocket leaves from a NASA-facility in Virginia. On board: a masterpiece of Antwerp space-technology. It’s name: ARGO, a modem for high-performance encoding. The developers: Antwerp Space. January 2021: two NASA-astronauts – Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover – make a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS). They install the modem, which – from now on – enables faster communication from the ISS to earth.

ARGO allows European astronauts to soon have their own, independent communication channel to earth. It will make it faster and easier to send high-definition scientific video and data collected from the ISS, allowing researchers to see the results of their experiments nearly in real time.

For Antwerp Space, the use of the ARGO modem marks an additional success as a manufacturer of leading edge satellite communication equipment. “We look forward to applying this new modem technology on a global scale in the future, for the institutional as well as for the commercial market”, said Koen Puimège, Managing Director of Antwerp Space.

Antwerp Space develops systems and equipment for European space programs and commercial space applications worldwide. This Antwerp based company provides expertise and system solutions for broadband access systems via satellites, navigation and radar solutions. It provides products for scientific, navigation and telecommunication missions.

Diamonds in space

Verhaert Masters in Innovation as a coach for space start-ups, the ARGO modem on the ISS, the AMS Belgium sensors on Perseverance, … Thanks to an innovative environment and an entrepreneurial ecosystem, Antwerp continues to expand. Outer space lies next to the shores of the Scheldt. A last example? Perseverance carries a spectroscope, a device that enables the search for signs of life on Mars. That spectroscope carries a diamond, polished by the Belgian company Almax easyLab. Guess twice where they bought that diamond? The city starts with an A …