French New Place: “Something’s Happening”, Jean-Luc Maria, Exotrail

After years of development – for some – in the shadow of large groups, French startups seem to be finally making their way into the newsspace sector. In the case of Exotrail, it is one of the seven companies required by the government to “weigh in internationally” in its space policy.

Thanks to the startups, restore the image of the space sector. Selected along with six other newsspace companies (AnsinLabs, Venture Orbital Systems, Share MySpace, U-Space, Comet and SpaceDreams), Exotrel was given a mission: to bring the space industry back to its former glory. European. Specializing in propulsion systems for small satellites, the company is now a reference in the sector. For Jean-Luc Maria, CEO of Exotrail since 2021, “this is the time to give us a whole new place,” as he explained in this interview.

Big Media: French new space turning an angle?

Jean-Luc Maria: Yes, I believe we are finally being taken seriously. The Prime Minister met us in early 2021 as part of the launch of PIA4 (Future Investment Program), then we met Emanuel Macron during VivaTech 2021. This allows us to communicate our messages better. We have asked the government authorities to work more with the emerging players in the sector. These are public orders that we need, more than subsidies. We also recommend periodic competitions that are much more open to new space players.

BM: Do you see a change in the attitude of the state on this issue?

JLM: The government seems to have heard our message, as it seeks to recognize our ecosystem through a national space network. Within CoSpace, an advisory committee between the state and industry on space, French newsspace players are now full members. At the same time, the France 2030 plan promises unprecedented financial support for new space players. In addition to established players, we want to be proactive so that the virtuous circle of innovation and value creation begins. However, something is happening, a collective awareness is now in favor of the fact that some startups have reached the beginning of maturity. It’s time to rebalance. In addition to major established players such as the European Space Agency, we also have something to contribute to the future of French space.

“The question of French and European space sovereignty has not been raised so much.”

BM: In February, the European Commission unveiled a project for a star in the telecommunications satellite … Is Europe waking up in space?

JLM: This is a very large European project to ensure the sovereignty of space communication. Curator Thierry Breton held his fist on the table so that emerging players would find their place in the project, and part of it through our New Symphony Consortium for preliminary research on startup Exotryl. It remains to be seen how much the European Commission will bring together new players for the creation, installation and operation phase of this constellation.

BM: Has the geopolitical context changed your outlook and the message you have given to the space sector?

JLM: The post-aggression crisis in Ukraine has underscored our dependence on Russia for space programs. The Soyuz rocket is a symbolic example. About thirty OneWeb satellites are still in Russia, and the main missions of European sovereignty cannot be run from Guyana, not to mention that the last-stage engines of the Vega launcher were made in Ukraine. The question of French and European space sovereignty was not so much raised. This should serve as a lesson for us.

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