Thales Alenia Space Signs Contract with European Space Agency to Develop Low Earth Orbit Cargo Return Service

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Insider Brief:

  • Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between European aerospace giants Thales and Leonardo, has landed a €25 million contract with the European Space Agency.
  • The contract entails developing a pioneering cargo delivery service to space stations orbiting our planet by 2028.
  • The groundbreaking initiative will kick-off with an initial two-year phase starting in June 2024.

The future of cargo transport to and from low-Earth orbit is taking an exciting leap forward. Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between European aerospace giants Thales and Leonardo, has landed a €25 million contract with the European Space Agency, according to a press release by the company. Their ambitious goal? Developing a pioneering cargo delivery service to space stations orbiting our planet by 2028.

This groundbreaking initiative kicks off with an initial two-year phase starting in June 2024. During this period, the team will be heads down refining their business strategy, engaging potential investors and customers, and initiating the all-important spacecraft development process. Key focuses will include maturing critical technologies and mitigating risks.

With Thales Alenia Space Italy at the helm overseeing the industrial aspects, and their French counterpart spearheading the spacecraft design, this collaborative effort taps into decades of hard-earned expertise. Additionally, ALTEC, a joint Italian venture, will be tackling the crucial ground support infrastructure.

The real excitement begins in phase two, culminating with a demonstration mission by late 2028. Here, the service and spacecraft will undergo further advancements, with the ultimate goal of delivering pressurized cargo safely to the International Space Station and back to Earth.

But the implications stretch far beyond our orbiting laboratory. As space exploration forges ahead with ambitious institutional and commercial missions to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations, Thales Alenia Space is positioning itself at the forefront. Their flexible cargo (and one-day passenger) transportation service could very well reshape how we support human exploration throughout the solar system.

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With over 40 years of pioneering space accomplishments under their belt, this European powerhouse is well-equipped to blaze new trails in the post-ISS era. As economic opportunities in research and science continue expanding, innovative solutions like this will be critical to opening new frontiers.

“We’re truly honored that ESA has placed its trust in our company by awarding the contract to develop cargo transportation services for commercial operators of Low Earth Orbit stations, thus giving us, as a leading European company, the opportunity to develop a commercial service to offer on the global market.” said Massimo Comparini, Deputy CEO and Senior Executive Vice President, Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space. “Thales Alenia Space has played, in the recent past, a key role in enabling mankind’s ambitions in Low Earth Orbit. Today, leveraging on its expertise in space exploration infrastructure and vehicles, the company, fully in line with the European Space Agency’s vision, wishes to invest in the development of technological solutions to give Europe a sustainable access to Low Earth Orbit.”

— Thales Alenia Space

Featured image: Credit Thales Alenia Space

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