Skip to main content

Thales Alenia Space’s Stratobus stratospheric airship passes a new development milestone

Flight demonstration of the StratobusTM emergency recovery system


Cannes, September 23, 2021 – Thales Alenia Space, the joint company between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has carried out a demonstration flight designed to validate the emergency recovery system for the StratobusTM stratospheric airship, as part of the European Commission’s HEMERA 2020 project.


StratobusTM is an autonomous airship 140 meters long, operating in the stratosphere at an altitude of 20 kilometers, which means that it belongs to the HAPS [High Altitude Platform System] family. It features a non-rigid envelope whose shape is maintained by helium at a higher pressure than the surrounding atmosphere. The demonstration flight of an open stratospheric balloon was carried out on September 11 at Kiruna, Sweden, and was designed to test the airship’s emergency recovery capacity. The test entailed cutting the envelope at an altitude of 20 kilometers, using a digital-pyrotechnic system, to trigger the airship’s controlled descent to the ground.  


Conducted by the Swedish Space Corporation, this 8-hour test flight was a resounding success, as it validated the airship’s emergency recovery concept. A live video feed confirmed the system’s effectiveness, in particular communications links with the ground, the command and control electronics, the digital-pyrotechnic system and its initiators, the pyrotechnic actuator and all instrumentation.

“We would like to thank the Swedish Space Corporation and all our partners for their contributions to this successful demonstration,” said Yannick Combet, StratobusTM Program Manager at Thales Alenia Space. “It’s always very impressive to see this kind of flight with an open stratospheric ‘balloon’, especially when it’s based on innovative technologies like the activation of a digital-pyrotechnic system operating in a severe environment. Furthermore, this demonstration is a key step along the path to flight authorization for future reduced scale Stratobus demonstrators, followed by the certification of flight models.”


Providing permanent regional coverage, StratobusTM is a perfect complement to satellite systems. It can carry payloads to perform a number of vital missions, including border surveillance, monitoring of high-value sites on land or at sea (video monitoring of offshore platforms, etc.), defense and security (the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, etc.), environmental monitoring (forest fires, beach erosion, pollution, etc.) and telecommunications (internet, 5G).



Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 1.850 billion euros in 2020 and has around 7,700 employees in 10 countries with 17 sites in Europe and a plant in the US.



Sandrine Bielecki    
Tel: +33 (0)4 92 92 70 94

Catherine des Arcis    
Tel.: +33 (0)6 78 64 63 97

Marija Kovac                  
Tel: +39 (0)6 415 129 91