Mr. Willekens graduated from the Free University of Brussels (ULB) with a Master in Business and Management Engineering in 1985 specialising in Information Systems and Technology Marketing. He has spent his entire career in the space sector, totalling 30 years of experience at the European Space Agency. He was nominated Head of ESA Communication Department on 1 April 2017. When joining ESA in 1987 Mr. Willekens was the initiator of innovative methods and tools to support the promotion and the utilisation of the newly created International Space Station Programme, one of the largest and most exciting international space cooperation projects. He opened up microgravity applications to private industry, setting the stage for future commercialisation and partnership agreements. Drawing on this experience, he then took over the management of the ESA’s Technology Transfer activities.
In 1997, he spent 6 years in the Launchers Directorate as Head of the Communication and Asset Management Of ce, working with industry in following the development of Ariane 5 launcher facilities across Europe and Kourou, French Guyana.
Among his main achievements was to design, build and launch in October 2005 the SSETI Express small satellite of 60 kg, leading a group of 400 students stemming from 12 countries. From design to launch in less than 18 months, SSETI Express was one of ESA’s best examples of inspirational projects gathering record TV and web coverage which was signi cant considering the early days of social media. Mr. Willekens was elected as one of the youngest members of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) in 1995 for his work on space commercialisation and his forward-looking approach to community media technology. Throughout his mandates, he actively supported several innovative projects such as space elevators, international Cubesat development, and the use of space technology for Earth-based applications such as demining.
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