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Muriel Hooghe

As a senior project manager at the Luxembourg Space Agency, Dr Hooghe gives us valuable insights in what's happening

We recently had the pleasure to ask Dr Hooghe some questions about her job at the Luxembourg Space Agency and here are some of them. Join the members club - for free - and access the full editions of the SpaceInfo Magazine to read the full interview inside the next publications!

Can you share your journey and experience that led you to become a lecturer at the University of Luxembourg and a senior project manager at the Luxembourg Space Agency?

After finishing my PhD in Physics, I got a job with SES. It was a bit by chance as my background wasn’t in space (my PhD was in non-linear phenomena), but the job required good physics, maths, mechanics, and software skills, and it sounded exciting. I wasn’t disappointed:  my new ‘space job’ was in the Flight Dynamics section that is responsible for station-keeping (i.e manoeuvring for orbital control) of the SES satellites. At that time, SES only had 6 satellites. We were also responsible for the development of the tools (software) for the station-keeping, and over the years we developed and automated the processes be able to control a fleet of over 50 satellites with a team that wasn’t much larger than when I started. So basically, that’s how I grew ‘roots’ in the space sector. Over time I moved internally in SES to work on Contingency Planning, and then in Frequency Coordination. And in 2021 there was this opportunity at the recently created Luxembourg Space Agency to work on Space Safety. I had been with SES for almost 25 years and thought it would be an excellent opportunity to get more insight to the rapidly growing space ecosystem in Luxembourg. And indeed, it is!

The lecturer role is one I seized when Luxembourg created the Interdisciplinary Space masters. I had really enjoyed teaching graduate students during my PhD, and reached out to the university to see if they were looking for lecturers. They needed someone to cover the Space Project Management course, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to share my experience with students. 

As a senior project manager at the Luxembourg Space Agency, what are some of the key responsibilities and challenges you face in overseeing space projects?

My role at the LSA is twofold. First of all, I support companies that want to develop a business related to space safety in Luxembourg. And in the other role, I represent Luxembourg at the relevant ESA and EU committees. There are challenges in both:

overseeing space projects is a balancing act of understanding complex technologies, identifying the potential commercial outcomes, and finding ways to support these developments. Most of the new actors in Luxembourg are startups with ambitious plans, limited budgets, and small teams. Helping them to get the right financing schemes, following their developments as they grow is different for each case, so there’s a real need to tailor our approach to each specific project. 

Luxembourg has positioned itself as a key player in the space economy, and to stand out as a small country at ESA and EU meetings requires clear goals and good collaborations. The aim is to have an impact on the topics that we decide to support, and with the recognition we see internationally, I think we’re doing a good job!

How do you balance your roles as a lecturer and senior project manager, and how do these two positions complement each other in your career?

Balancing the two roles can be challenging timewise, but it’s definitely worth it. My role at the LSA is my ‘main job’, and thanks to great flexibility from LSA and the university, we manage to find suitable slots for the lectures. Engaging with the students is always fun, they have a level of creativity and enthusiasm that never ceases to impress me. Being an active project manager allows me to include stories from my work experience to illustrate the teaching topics!

Also, one the goals of the LSA is to develop the talents for our space ecosystem – the Space Masters was created as an LSA initiative- so it’s great to have direct insight to how this is growing in Luxembourg. The Space Master’s has been active for 5 years, I see some of my students take up roles in space companies in Luxembourg, and it’s always a real reward to see these successes!

Luxembourg has been making significant strides in the space industry. Could you highlight some of the notable projects you've been involved in and their impact on the country's space endeavors?

In 2022, Luxembourg updated its space strategy, focusing on sustainability. This may not seem very original these days, but the approach we have to space sustainability is unique, with four pillars: Sustainability in Space, Sustainability on Earth, Sustainability of Space Resources, and Economic sustainability.

The topics I follow are related to Sustainability in Space, and we are supporting companies with projects that could be groundbreaking. One of them is NorthStar who just launched four satellites to monitor space from space and is developing a suite of tools for conjunction analysis in Luxembourg. With the increased concern around space debris, this could bring Space Situational Awareness techniques to a new level. 

I am also following two companies that are involved in in-orbit-servicing: Clearspace and LMO. They are developing technologies and services that will create new opportunities in space such as satellite refuelling, in-orbit repair or manufacturing, debris removal etc.


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