The film "Immersive Space Journey" was conceived as a veritable trip into space, taking us from Earth to Mars. Welcome onboard a brand-new experience, an immersive journey on the Stairway to Space, step after step.
A gigantic observatory in the middle of the desert
Your trip starts, quite naturally, down on Earth… well, not really down, since you’ll be at an altitude of 5,000 meters (that’s over 16,000 feet, for our American friends) in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Up on the Chajnantor plateau is the largest radiotelescope ever built: ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array). Consisting of 66 giant dish antennas, this titanic observatory was built by an international team from Europe, the United States and Japan – with Thales Alenia Space chosen to build the 25 European dish antennas. ALMA was designed to meet a wide range of exciting objectives: to observe the so-called “cold” universe and molecular gases, to provide scientists and astronomers with images of stars and planets being formed, to detect nascent galaxies as they could have existed some ten billion years ago, and much more. Click here for more info
Anytime, anywhere connectivity
Now we’re cruising at an altitude of 10,700 meters (over 35,000 ft). You’re a passenger on a commercial jetliner, and you can phone, check your emails, watch a film, use online services and much more. Today’s users are always looking for greater connectivity and mobility, with anytime, anywhere access to richer content. The best solution to address this market trend is undoubtedly Satcom, or satellite communications systems. For instance, international operator SES chose Thales Alenia Space in 2016 to make the very-high-throughout communications satellite, SES-17, with a special focus on providing connectivity for both airplanes and their passengers. Click here for more info.
Is it a bird? A plane? A drone? No, it’s StratobusTM!
We’ve moved up to an altitude of 20,000 meters, or 20 kilometers (12-1/2 miles), well above air traffic and the jet stream. In a few years it will be StratobusTM an airship halfway between a drone and a satellite, which will be flying in the stratosphere. Stratobus is an excellent fit with satellite systems and, unlike these systems, does not require a launch vehicle. It will provide a perfect solution for both homeland and defense applications, for example by providing permanent surveillance of a given regional coverage zone. Click here for more info.
“Ground Control to Major Tom”
We’re now in the International Space Station, in low Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 400 kilometers (250 miles). The ISS reflects Thales Alenia Space’s long-standing expertise in orbital infrastructures: Thales Alenia Space provided over half of the station’s pressurized volume, with Nodes 2 and 3, the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM), Multipurpose Logistics Modules (MPLM), the structure for the Columbus space lab and cargo modules on the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) resupply ship, The company also makes the pressurized cargo modules for the Cygnus resupply vessels built by Orbital ATK. A number of astronauts have taken spectacular photos of the Earth from the station’s Cupola, designed and built by the engineers at Thales Alenia Space in Turin. Click here for more info.
“Eye in the Sky”
700 kilometers: That’s where most Earth Observation satellites are to be found, in an orbit where they gather intelligence, monitor our environment, help map the planet, manage crises, etc. Spaceborne systems give their users, especially governments, access to a wide range of surveillance applications, to guarantee security and independence. More and more countries today have shown an interest in acquiring independent space systems capable of providing them with key intelligence pictures. Thales Alenia Space offers a complete range of observation components (optical and radar sensors, user ground segment) to meet market expectations in this area.
780 kilometers: The Iridium® NEXT constellation should be fully operational at this orbit in 2018. Built by Thales Alenia Space for Iridium, this second-generation constellation will count 66 operational satellites in orbit, nine in-orbit spares, and six more spares on the ground. Iridium® NEXT is one of the most complex and ambitious space programs ever developed. It is designed to connect thousands of users around the world, using an ingenious “mesh” arrangement that interconnects dozens of telecom satellites flying around our planet.
Reduce the digital divide
Let’s take a big jump now, all the way to 36,000 kilometers (about 22,300 miles), where geostationary communications satellites hang out. Even in 2017, the digital divide is still a major program for society. More than 4 billion people on Earth are still not connected to the Internet, or have a poor connection. In the 42 countries that have the lowest connection rate (totaling 2.5 billion people), it’s still very hard to connect to the Internet via conventional terrestrial systems. Very High Throughput Satellites (VHTS) a sector where Thales Alenia Space is an uncontested key player, provides a very attractive alternative to reduce this digital divide. The major advantage of a satellite-based solution is of course its ability to provide internet coverage over a given area, independently of the ground infrastructure, and at comparable connection costs.
500 million kilometers: Mars and Beyond
500 million kilometers (310 million miles), 7 months: that’s the distance covered by the ExoMars spacecraft, and the time it took to reach Martian orbit in October 2016. The orbiter’s role is to sniff out any traces of gases, especially methane, in the Martian atmosphere. A second ExoMars mission, in 2020, will carry a Russian landing platform and a European rover, which will set down on the Red Planet. The rover will take samples of Martian soil and analyze them using it’s own built-in lab. Data on these samples will then be sent back to Earth, using the orbiter as a communications relay, not just for ESA’s rover, but also for NASA’s vehicle. The ExoMars program is conducted jointly by ESA and Russian space agency Roscosmos, with Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor. It aims to determine if there are any traces of past life on Mars: an existential question that David Bowie probably asked himself in his song “Life on Mars”, from the 1971 album Hunky Dory.
Venus, Mars, Mercury, Titan, asteroids and comets… Thales Alenia Space has always been a pivotal partner in Europe’s most exciting journeys into the Solar System.
On Earth, in airplanes, in the stratosphere, inside the International Space Station, in orbit, between our planets… Thales Alenia Space is firmly convinced that space, in all its myriad forms, expands our abilities to build a better, safer and more sustainable life here on Earth!