From April 8 to 11, Thales Alenia Space will be at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the United States, to showcase its latest solutions for space exploration and orbital infrastructures. With the deployment of two Thales Alenia Space-built telecommunications satellite constellations being completed this year (O3b in medium orbit and Iridium® NEXT in low orbit), the European satellite manufacturer will show how it planned ahead to negotiate the transition to the “New Space” market environment.
From the International Space Station to major space exploration programs
Venus, Mars, Mercury, Titan, the Moon, asteroids and comets… Thales Alenia Space is a pivotal partner in Europe’s fantastic missions across the Solar System. Company staff will be on hand at the Space Symposium to explain our solutions and share their passion for space exploration.
Thales Alenia Space is also prime contractor for the current ExoMars* program, a role it played on Herschel and Planck, the largest space observatories ever developed in Europe. The company also developed and integrated Corot, France’s own low-orbit “exoplanet” hunter, and will be heavily involved in a new program called PLATO, also tasked with tracking exoplanets (planets outside our Solar System), but from the Lagrange 2 point, thanks to advanced telescope optical units built at the Leonardo facility in Campi Bisenzio, Italy in conjunction with leading universities and research organizations. We are also one of the lead partners on the recently launched BepiColombo mission, which will explore one of the most mysterious planets in the Solar System, Mercury.
Thales Alenia Space also built 25 of the 64 huge parabolic antennas (Europe’s contribution) for the giant ALMA radiotelescope array deployed on the Atacama plateau in Chile. In addition, Thales Alenia Space played a lead role on the famous Rosetta-Philae comet mission (especially via assembly, integration and testing of the spacecraft), as well as on Cassini-Huygens. This latter mission allowed us to explore the atmosphere of Titan and then make a trouble-free – if short-lived! – landing on Saturn’s most mysterious moon. The Huygens space probe was built by Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor. Also on the agenda at Thales Alenia Space is the European program Euclid, which will help us better understand dark matter.
In the meantime, Europe is holding its breath in the run-up to the ExoMars 2020 mission. ESA’s rover for this mission should touch down on Mars in 2021. Fitted with a special drill built by Leonardo near Milan, the rover will take soil samples at a depth of 2 meters, in an attempt to discover traces of past life (bacteria), while the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), launched in 2016, continues its mission in orbit around Mars, “sniffing” the Martian atmosphere to discover traces of methane gas in particular.
40% of ISS built by Thales Alenia Space
The International Space Station (ISS) holds a special place in the hearts of Thales Alenia Space engineers based in Turin, Italy. Thales Alenia Space has supplied fully half of the pressurized volume on the ISS (40% of the entire station), including Nodes 2 and 3, the Multipurpose Module (MMP), Multipurpose Logistics Modules (MPLM), Cupola, Columbus lab structure, and the structure for the Bishop commercial airlock from NanoRacks. Thales Alenia Space also supplied the integrated cargo carriers for the ATV resupply vessel on behalf of Airbus Defence and Space, and the pressurized cargo modules for Cygnus on behalf of Northrop Grumman. The next Cygnus resupply vessel will lift off for the ISS on April 17.
Looking beyond the ISS, Thales Alenia Space is gearing up for lunar missions, in particular with the LOP-G (Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway), and is carrying out design studies for NASA (as part of STEP 2) and ESA. Furthermore, following the success of the IXV atmospheric reentry demonstrator, Thales Alenia Space is developing Space Rider, Europe’s new-generation, low-orbit, reusable space transport system.
Timely solutions for New Space
NorthStar, BlackSky, Kineis… Thales Alenia Space offers innovative yet competitive proposals for a wide range of activities. We will be showcasing these solutions in Colorado Springs.
For instance, Thales Alenia Space and the American startup Spaceflight Industries have created LeoStella LCC, an equally-owned joint venture fully reflecting the needs of the New Space environment. Their aim is to deploy BlackSky, the first constellation featuring short revisit times, comprising 60 optical high-resolution satellites.
Thales Alenia Space will also build Kineis, a constellation of 20 nano-satellites dedicated to The Internet of Things, produced in conjunction with Nexeya for CLS.
The Space Alliance (between Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio) recently acquired a stake in NorthStar Earth & Space Inc, an information services company from Montreal that is developing the world’s most sophisticated system for the surveillance of our environment and near space. Through this investment, the Space Alliance will provide NorthStar with design, development and production solutions for an innovative constellation of 40 satellites.
*ExoMars 2020 is a joint international program between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency Roscosmos. Thales Alenia Space is overall program prime contractor, while Airbus Defence & Space is in charge of the rover and OHB of the carrier module (CM).
First artistic view: © IStocks
Rover ExoMars: © Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes
Huygens probe on Titan © ESA, C. Carreau
Rover ExoMars - Cartoon © ASTER
Samantha Cristoforetti - Cupola © ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti
NanoRacks © NanoRacks
SpaceRider: © ESA
BlackSky: © SpaceFlight Industries
Kineïs: © CLS/Kineïs