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Organisers

Switch to Space organisers - the Dream Team!

Switch to Space is organised by professionals and volunteers with various backgrounds, knowledge and experience. Together they form a dream team that brings the vision about future space career opportunities into a comprehensive and engaging event for students and young professionals.

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Dominique Tilmans

The Chair of YouSpace  

Dominique Tilmans has been heavily involved in the space sector during her long political career, notably through the presidency of the "Senate Space Group" of the presidency of the "European Interparliamentary Space Conference (EISC)". She launched YouSpace/ Switch to Space in 2014 in order to link STEM Students to Belgian Space experts. She is currently the Chair of Eurisy, Board Member of Telespazio Belgium and Special Advisor to the President IAF for the "Ministers and Members of Parliaments Meeting". In 2017, she received the "BeSpace Personality of the Year" award.

Sabri Mekaoui

Sabri Mekaoui is a Programme officer at the European Commission. As an EU diplomat, he is supporting the European Union in the conception of international partnership strategies in the areas of climate change, digitalisation, Space and STI in West Africa. Sabri has been in charge of various space programmes including GOVSATCOMnanosatellitesspace mission conceptsroboticlunar explorationISRU and Earth Observation technologies and services.
Sabri has been working at the Royal Meteorological of Belgium in Solar physics where he was in charge of space instrumentation on the space shuttle, the ISS and SOHO. He holds a PhD of Engineering from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and a master of space science and techniques from the University of Liège. Sabri is an Alumni of the International Space University (Space Study Programme of 2002).

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Prof. Dr. Sarah Baatout

Prof. Sarah Baatout is deputy institute director of nuclear medical applications at SCK CEN (Belgian Nuclear Research Centre) in Mol, Belgium. She also teaches as guest professor at UGent and KULeuven. For more than 25 years, she has been investigating the impact of ionizing radiation on health through the development of new therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals and better radiotherapy treatments for cancer patients, the discovery of innovative biomarkers for personalized medicine of astronauts and patients. Sarah is the Head of the Belgian delegation at UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation), Secretary Treasurer of the European Radiation Research Society and Chair of the Belgian Hadrontherapy Center. She is/has been the (co-)-promoters of 5 Postdocs and of 18 PhD students and is the (co-) author of some 200 international papers.

Veronique Dehant

Prof.Véronique Dehant works at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, where she is a Senior Researcher in the Operational Directorate "Reference Systems and Planetology". She is also an Extraordinary Professor at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCLouvain). She has been an Academician (Member of the Royal Academy of Belgium, Science Class) since 2010, a Foreign Member of the Paris Academy of Sciences since 2016 and of the US National Academy of Science since 2023. She has been awarded several prizes and two ERC Grants from the European Research Council. She is involved in several space missions visiting the planets and moons of the solar system.

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Patrick Hendrick

 

Patrick Hendrick is Professor at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) as well as at VUB, KULeuven and Royal Military Academy of Belgium, with also strong collaboration with the VKI. He has been involved in diffferent space technology research projects funded by ESA in programmes as GSTP, FLPP or Prodex but also in European Commission space projects as LAPCAT, ASCENSION, CHAT or FAST20XX. He is specifically active in the field of reusable launchers technology studies and experiments, together with academic partners and industry as Safran, SABCA, SONACA or Aerospacelab. Dual technologies, low cost access to space and reusable systems are a common concern in his space vision. 

Prof. Walter Peeters

 

Prof. Walter Peeters is the President-Emeritus of the International Space University (ISU), Strasbourg, France. In his career he initially covered management positions in the construction and petrochemical industries, joining in 1983 the European Space Agency (ESA) where he became a.o. Head of the Coordination Office of the European Astronaut Center in Cologne.

He joined ISU in 2000 as professor in Space Business and Management, nominated Dean in 2005 and became President in 2011, then President Emeritus since 2018.

He advises government organizations on space activities and creation of national space agencies. He is a full member of the International Academy of Astronautics and is member of the editorial board of several space journals.

He obtained degrees in engineering and applied economics (Catholic University of Louvain), an MBA (Louvain, Cornell University) and a Ph.D. in Engineering (TU Delft, Aerospace Faculty). He authored over 90 articles on space commercialization and NewSpace Economy, the book Space Marketing (Kluwer, 2000) and an IAA Report on Suborbital Spaceflight (IAA, 2014).

His present focus is on NewSpace research and entrepreneurship amongst others leading a space incubator at ISU and supporting space start-ups.

For detailed information see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Peeters

Peetres Walter
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Olivier Chazot

Prof. Olivier Chazot is professor and Head of the Aeronautic and Aerospace department at the Von Karman Institute. He carries out research in high enthalpy facilities and plasma wind tunnels to study laminar to turbulent transition and Gas-Surface interactions in re-entry flows. He participated in multiple ESA missions for the development of flight-testing experiments like the EXPERT probe, IXV program and QARMAN re-entry CubeSat.
He is also a "scientist in residence" at Zurich University of Arts for transdisciplinary collaboration between art, science and philosophy in experimental research.

Natacha Callens

  

Natacha Callens graduated with a double PhD in Physics awarded by the Université Pierre et Marie Curie and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. She started her career in the space sector as local research manager of the ESA/PRODEX project BIOMICS (BIOMImetic and Cellular Systems) successfully launched in the MASER 11 sounding rocket. She joined the ESA Education Office in 2009 as programme coordinator, where she developed and coordinated for several years some ESA hands-on programmes, including the Fly, Drop, and Spin Your Thesis! Programmes. From 2015 to 2023 she has been in charge of the ESA Academy's Training and Learning Programme offering short-duration training sessions to university students to complement what they learn at university and better prepare them for a space-related career. In parallel to secondment at BELSPO to support the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the space-related aspects, she is now in charge of developing the new ESA Academy Engagement Programme aiming at offering structured collaboration models both within ESA and externally with academia, space industry, and institutions to contribute together to the preparation of the future talents in terms of knowledge, skills, and competences.

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Katrien Kolenberg 

Katrien Kolenberg is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of
Antwerp and the VUB, as well as Professor of Science Communication &
Outreach and  and national manager of the Belgian ESERO (European Space
Education Resource Office) at the KU Leuven. Her research lies in the
field of stellar astrophysics, particularly variable stars and
asteroseismology.  Katrien is passionate about scientific research, art,
astronomy for development, and innovative/artistic science communication
and education worldwide. She has received international awards for both
scientific accomplishments and science communication.

Marta Lebron

Marta Lebron is a Senior Marketing and Communications Executive at Redwire in Kruibeke. An alumni of the International Space University, she has been involved in different space organizations such as SpaceUp, Space
Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), Astropreneurs.space, and WIA-E Barcelona.

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Carl-Henrik Dahlqvist

  

Carl-Henrik Dahlqvist holds a Master's degree in Business Engineering from the Université Catholique de Louvain (LSM). After having worked 2 years for SWIFT as a financial analyst, he decided to go back to university to pursue a PhD in Finance in co-supervision between the Université catholique de Louvain (LSM) and the Université de Namur, where he was also a teaching assistant in Finance. He decided, a few years later, to transform his passion for Astronomy and space into a possible career. In 2014, he started, on top of his Ph.D. in Econophysics, a 2 years preparatory program for the M.Sc. in Particle Physics and Cosmology. After having completed this MSc in Particle Physics and Cosmology and received his PhD in Economics, he started in October 2018, a second PhD fellowship in exoplanet imaging at the STAR Institute at the Department of Astrophysics and Geophysics in collaboration with the Montefiore Institute of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science of the Université de Liège. Following his second PhD in Space Sciences, he joined Spacebel in September 2022 as a Space Physics Engineer to contribute to developing the Belgian space sector.

Vladimir Pletser

 

Vladimir Pletser is currently Director of Space Training Operations at Blue Abyss, a company based in UK and the US, proposing a new approach for astronaut training.

He was previously (2016-18) Visiting Professor – Scientific Adviser at the Technology and Engineering Centre for Space Utilization of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, supporting microgravity research for parabolic flights and the Chinese Tiangong Station; and Senior Physicist – Engineer (1985-16) at the European Space Research and Technology Centre of ESA, developing scientific instruments for microgravity research in fluid physics, crystallisation of proteins and zeolites and neurophysiology on Spacelab and ISS.

Responsible of the ESA aircraft parabolic flight programme, he logged 7389 parabolas, totalling more than 39h 30m of weightlessness, equivalent to 26 Earth orbits, and 53 and 50 minutes at Mars and Moon g’s, during which he participated in several hundred experiments. He holds a world record for the number of airplanes (14) on which he flew parabolas.

Astronaut Candidate for Belgium since 1991, he was Payload Specialist candidate for several Spacelab missions, spending several months in training at NASA-JSC, Houston. He trained NASA and European astronauts during parabolic flights for several Spacelab and ISS missions.

Selected by The Mars Society, a private organisation promoting the human exploration of Mars, he participated in three international Mars mission simulation campaigns in the Arctic (2001), in the Desert of Utah (2002) and as Crew Commander (2009).

He is visiting Professor in 20 universities in Europe, USA, Canada, Africa, Israel, and China. He has more than 800 publications, including 6 books, 18 chapters, 70 articles in refereed journals and 154 articles in international conferences proceedings.

He is member of the International Astronautical Academy and of several other academies and scientific organizations. He holds a Master of Engineering in Mechanics (1979), a Master of Sciences in Geophysics (1980) and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics (1990) from the University of Louvain, Belgium.

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Thierry du Pré-Werson

Thierry du Pré-Werson is the Managing Director of SPACEBEL, a Belgian based company involved in the development of Space infrastructure software systems and Earth monitoring applications.
He is a civil engineer in electronics (Master in Engineering Sciences) trained at the University of Liège (ULiège).
In October 1989, after a nine-year career in software development for SAIT Electronics, a telecommunication company, he joined SPACEBEL to be in charge of the ESA Columbus-related projects.
After 15 years of involvement in the development of various scientific and Earth Observation European satellites, he was appointed General Manager and, later on, CEO of the company.
He is very active in space: he is currently Chairman of Wallonie Espace, Chairman of Belgospace, and a member of the Boards of Directors of several organisations, including Skywin and YouSpace

Frank Preud’homme

  

Frank Preud'homme holds a Master's in Engineering and has been active in the space sector for almost 35 years. He has experience in project management and has held several management positions at Redwire. Currently, he is the Sales and Business Development Director and a board member, with additional responsibilities for communications, external relations, and strategy.
He was in charge of setting up and creating a new space company in Belgium, Redu, where he was temporarily Managing Director until a new management team was put in place. 
Frank is very active in space: he has been part of different advisory groups for exploration and space technical infrastructure and he has supported numerous outreach, educational, and inspirational events. He is a member of the board of the Vlaamse Ruimtevaartindustrie, Belgospace, and FLAG.

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Koen Puimège

Koen is chairman of the board of the Flemish space industry (VRI), member of the board of Belgospace and managing director of Antwerp Space NV.
He has been active in the space industry for more than 24 years in various leadership roles and has a background in electronics and business administration. In his current position, his ambition is threefold: to strengthen cooperation between space companies and universities in Belgium, to represent them to national and international governments and to make them known to the general public.


At European and international level, Koen builds bridges between the Belgian space sector and foreign agencies, companies and institutions.
He has a creative, result-oriented and entrepreneurial mentality.

Amélie Revers

Aurélie Revers have a background anchored in jurisprudence, she started her professional life in 2007 within UCM, an official Payroll Provider's Company. Her trajectory swiftly ascended to that of a Front Lawyer Officer, specializing in Social Law.

Her ardour for space traces back to her formative years, an enduring passion catalyzed by encounters such as that with Frank de Winne at the tender age of 10. Capitalizing on this fervour, she embraced an opportunity with Telespazio in 2012, assuming the mantle of Human Resources Director for the entirety of the Belgian Legal Entity. Our operations extend across the Province of Luxembourg and are further entrenched in various European locales.

Beyond her professional pursuits, she finds fulfilment in contributing as
a volunteer for the Switch to Space project, driven by an insatiable
thirst for knowledge and a profound affinity for the Space Sector.

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Kevin Tabury

  

Kevin Tabury holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and is currently head of the Radiobiology Unit at SCK CEN where he is leading the research on investigating the biological effects of radiation on the human body (including the effects of radiopharmaceuticals, external beam radiotherapy and space radiation). He currently has two running space projects PULSE  and AstroCardia.

Mohammad Iranmanesh

Mohammad Iranmanesh is the Managing Director (Belgium) of constellr, a pan-european company pioneering the use of cutting-edge beyond-visual imaging technology to transform how we monitor crucial aspects of Earth's health from space (https://www.constellr.com). With a background in Space Systems Engineering and project management, Mohammad brings extensive expertise in overseeing the technical development of space hardware and software
Prior to his role at constellr, he pursued a dual master's degree at UCLouvain and ISAE-Supaero, complemented by a certificate in Management of Innovation from HEC Paris. During this time, he co-founded lide.space (https://lide.space), a Belgian startup dedicated to facilitating microgravity research through glider parabolic flights.
Mohammad is also actively engaged in the global space community, serving as the National Point of Contact in Belgium for the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC).

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Olivier Dupont

  

Olivier Dupont between 1985-2020 worked in the Microgravity Research Center, a laboratory of the polytechnic school of ULB where he was involved in the development of various microgravity experiments onboard sounding rockets and the Spacelab D2 Mission. In parallel with the scientific research, he develops as project manager, optical equipment for space and industrial applications. In 1996, he founded with two partners, Lambda-X who designs, develops and manufactures imaging and metrology optical systems for high technological markets like space & security, biomedical & life science as well as process control for the industry.        

Andrei Vedernikov

Andrei Vedernikov holds a PhD in physics and mathematics obtained at Moscow State University, Russia. Most of Andrei’s professional activities are related to microgravity. He began to work at Space Research Institute (IKI), Russia and at Moscow State University. Most of time he headed a particle transport phenomena group at Microgravity Research Center (MRC), Chimie-Physique Dept EP ULB. Andrei was a principal and co-investigator in more than twenty European Space Agency’s campaigns on sounding rockets, parabolic and drop tower flights. Currently, he is a member of an international program on the experimental investigation of early stages of protoplanetary matter formation.

  

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Guerric de Crombrugghe

  

Guerric de Crombrugghe is a general partner at NukeTech, a venture capital fund focused on early-stage startups active in nuclear energy. He holds a master's in electromechanical engineering from the Louvain School of Engineering, a research master's in fluid dynamics from the von Karman Institute, and a doctoral degree in plasma physics from the University of Queensland. The focal point of his professional career was the translation of deep technological concepts into commercial products, mostly in the aerospace sector. In June 2020 he created ScanWorld, a startup dedicated to the provision of value-added services to agriculture using satellite imagery.

Julien Béclard 

  

Julien Béclard works for the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) and the Permanent Representation of Belgium to the European Union. He is in charge of the coordination of Belgium's positions in space matters inside the EU institutions and more particularly inside the Council of the European Union where he seats for Belgium in the Space working party. His fields of expertise cover the space programme of the European Union, the European space governance and the relations between the EU and the European space agency (ESA).

Julien holds a PhD in Political Science on the European space policy from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

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Bernard Guillaume

  

Bernard Guillaume holds a master in mechanical engineering from the University of Louvain and a master in aerospace engineering from ESTAé in France. He was system and AIV (Assembly – Integration and Verification) engineer at ESA-ESTEC for 28 years working in the Science Directorate projects (ISO, Herschel/Planck, Lisa Pathfinder, BepiColombo and Euclid). Before joining ESA, he was a launch system and mission engineer working at CNES and ARIANESPACE in France and started as a stress engineer in the design office of SONACA in Belgium. He retired in Oct 2021, and he created a small company working as consultant engineer and provide support to space projects.

Aurelie Bellemans

  

Aurélie Revers received her degree in Electromechanical Engineering from the joint BRUFACE programme at the VUB and ULB in 2013. Afterwards, she joined the von Kaman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in a collaborative PhD with ULB. She worked as a BAEF postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin. She joined the FLOW research group at VUB as an assistant professor in October 2020. The overarching topic of her research is to develop data-driven feature-extraction methods and build advanced surrogates using machine-learning algorithms. Her main applications of interest are the development of digital twins for reacting flows with applications to plasma-assisted combustion and atmospheric re-entry plasmas. 

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Georges Gondon 

  

Georges Gondon is a Mathematician and computer scientist from the Free University of Brussels; he was for more than 20 years managing director of BIAC-LOG SA, a Luxembourg company for the creation and development of software. His role at ‘Switch to Space’ involves finance and setting up speed dating.

Etienne Tilmans

  

Etienne Tilmans worked at ESA-ESEC as a Mission Operations Engineer. He specializes in the field of operations control centers, particularly in spacecraft automated operations.

Initially, he was involved in the operations of geostationary telecommunications satellites, such as the first generation of the EUTELSAT ECS family. Later, he assumed responsibility for the overall operations of the LEO small technology demonstration PROBA satellites.

Etienne is an Electrical Engineer graduated from UCLOUVAIN and began his professional career as a Young Graduate Trainee at ESA.

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Linda Kimeisa

  

Linda Kimeisa is a digital communication manager at WIT Berry (Latvia) Linda has more than 15 years of experience. Author of the book "Web Content That Sells". For the last few years, Linda has participated in different international space projects.   

Guna Valtere

Guna Valtere is a communication and marketing manager with more than 10 years of experience. She cherishes personalised communication on all levels: among colleagues, with clients, and between clients and their clients. In doing her job, Guna always goes the extra mile to ensure the quality of the work.

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