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A fabulous Space Adventure at VivaTech!

What do the following have in common: StratobusTM, Open Innovation, space debris, “Mars from A to Z”, space exploration, additive manufacturing and augmented reality? All of these subjects, and more, will be spotlighted at VivaTech by specialists from Thales Alenia Space. The Paris-based VivaTech exhibition is a “must” for all innovation aficionados, for a very good reason. This year’s event is expecting some 80,000 participants from 100 countries, 8,000 startups, 1,400 investors, and more. It will also feature prestigious guests such as Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, as well as transformation and innovation experts to explain the latest technologies. Thales Alenia Space will of course be present and accounted for at VivaTech, alongside its parent company Thales.

Space Servicers :

Thales Group - Space_Servicers

Space, as we know all too well, is increasingly clogged by debris, and Thales Alenia Space is studying various solutions to limit their proliferation. One of the primary areas of focus is the Space Servicers. These are space vehicles that, in the near future, could fulfill many missions: controlled re-entry or repositioning in stable orbits called "cemetery" satellites at the end of life to avoid the creation of debris; or adding a payload to an existing space mission to increase performance while keeping safe satellite equipment that still works.
This approach, favored by international space agencies, especially ESA, intends to optimize the use of space in order to make it more "clean". One of the environmental impacts of space operations is the release of CO2, generated in particular during satellite launches. Powder propulsion [necessary for the launcher to escape the Earth's gravitational force and reach the orbit] is the major cause of pollution. To try to cope with the situation and limit the impact on the environment, satellite manufacturers, Thales Alenia Space among the most advanced, use electric propulsion. This propulsion system can significantly reduce the weight of the satellite and therefore the launch mass.
Space Servicers could also provide an advantage if we ever get around to creating lunar stations, by transporting various components to be assembled.

Stratobus: a revolutionary airship


Thales Group - Stratobus_1100

Thales Alenia Space’s famous StratobusTM program, for an autonomous, multi-mission stratospheric airship, will also be in the spotlight at VivaTech. A perfect complement to satellite systems, Stratobus offers the advantage of carrying out its missions without needing an expensive launch vehicle. For instance, it could provide a permanenet surveillance solution over a predefined regional coverage zone, to meet the needs of security and defense organizations. More info regarding Stratobus

Mars and Martians?

Thales Group - TGO

The planet Mars is front-page news these days! A few months ago, SpaceX’s new heavy launcher sent one of the first Tesla cars on a voyage towards Mars in its inaugural mission. Europe’s own Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) was moved into its definitive orbit around Mars a few months ago. After reaching Mars in October 2016, this spacecraft’s scientific mission could at last get started. It has already taken spectacular photos to boot. In 2020, a Russian-built landing platform, carrying a rover from the European Space Agency, will also lift off on its way to Mars.


Thales Group - Rover

The combined lander is expected to touch down in 2021. ESA designed a very special Mars rover, with an ultra-sophisticated mini-laboratory. It is fitted with an industrial-strength drill, enabling it to pierce the Martian soil to a depth of two meters – a world first! The ultimate aim, of course, is to find subterranean bacteria, which could prove the past existence of life on the Red Planet. You could almost say that this mission, dubbed ExoMars 2020, may conceivably answer the existential question posed years ago by David Bowie and countless sci-fi writers: “Is There Life on Mars?” The Rover’s lab will analyze the samples dug up by the drill, then transmit this info to the TGO orbiter, which will send them back to Earth, where scientist will pore over this invaluable data for many years to come. Meanwhile, the orbiter will continue its other mission, of analyzing the presence of trace gases in the Martian atmosphere, especially methane, while determining if it’s of biological origin.


Thales Group - Cartoon

One of our experts, Diana Margheritis, will be at VivaTech to explain how to avoid the bacteriological contamination of other planets, especially Mars. There’s a two-pronged challenge involved: avoid contaminating other planets in the Solar System with terrestrial micro-organisms; and make sure that extraterrestrial matter doesn’t contaminate our home planet.

Robotic space exploration

Thales Group - ISS

Venus, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, asteroids and comets… Thales Alenia Space has long been a pivotal partner in a number of impressive missions to explore our own Solar System. Not to mention that fully 50% of the pressurized volume on the International Space Station, including the famous Cupola observation module, was built by our plant in Turin, Italy. Thales Alenia Space is also prime contractor for the ExoMars program. The aforementioned Rover marks a first step towards future manned exploration missions. The Space Exploration global roadmaps are asking for enabling capabilities based on advanced technologies. Actually, we are already paving the way for these missions, based on the use of robotic vehicles and spaceplanes. The space tugs mentioned earlier could be very advantageous, not just to recover space debris, but also to help astronauts carry out certain tasks during their extravehicular activities – better known as space walks!
The next step for human spaceflight is the development of deep space exploration capabilities to expand architectures to support more extensive missions in the proving ground around and beyond cis-lunar space and then towards deep space and, ultimately, Mars. Thales Alenia Space is very proud to bring its expertise to cooperate with NASA and with other US partners in expanding the frontiers of knowledge, capability and opportunities in space beyond Low Earth Orbit.


Thales Group - Space_Rider

At the same time, Thales Alenia Space’s Turin facility is working on Space Rider, Europe’s future automated and reusable space transport system. Derived directly from the IXV reentry demonstrator built by Thales Alenia Space for ESA, the Space Rider will carry payloads into low Earth orbit (LEO) missions, or to the International Space Station. It is designed to be recovered and reused up to six times. Space Rider, slated to fly a first mission in 2021 and able to carry payloads of about 800 kg, confirms Thales Alenia Space’s leading role in atmospheric reentry, since it combines the capabilities of orbital free-flying satellite platforms with reusability.

Innovation and Digital Transformation at Thales Alenia Space


Thales Group - Innovation

Thales Alenia Space is implementing a strategy based on innovation and digital transformation, the Factory of the Future, which will feature advanced technologies such as additive manufacturing, virtual reality and augmented reality. Players in the fiercely competitive communications satellite market now have to produce more, faster and cheaper! New technologies will be the essential drivers for companies wanting to up their production rates within a market undergoing deep changes. The Factory of the Future concept is designed to introduce state-of-the-art, highly competitive technologies in the production process, which will also be an integral part of the company’s digital transformation. In addition, we are fully embracing Open Innovation, working with a wide variety of change agents and startups (Diota, S2P, SwissTo12, etc.) to identify and implement disruptive projects that will spur progress in the space industry.
Additive manufacturing, robots and cobots, Factory 4.0, virtual and augmented reality… At VivaTech, you will soon notice that the latest buzzword, Innovation, really comes into its own at Thales Alenia Space!

First artistic view + Stratobus + Space Servicers: © Thales Alenia Space/Briot
ExoMars TGO: © ESA
ExoMars Rover & ISS: © Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes
Cartoon:© Aster
Space Rider: © ESA
Innovation: © Thales Alenia Space/Briot/Creative Spirit