Thales Alenia Space Signs €25M ESA Contract for Cargo Delivery Service

Thales Alenia Space in Italy is the industrial prime contractor. Thales Alenia Space in France will be involved  in the spacecraft development while ALTEC,

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Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has signed a first phase contract worth €25m with the European Space Agency (ESA) to demonstrate a  complete cargo delivery service to and from space stations in low-Earth orbit by 2028. The development of  this LEO Cargo Return Service will be co-founded by Thales Alenia Space.  

Thales Alenia Space’s role 

During this two-year phase contract (from June 2024 to June 2026), Thales Alenia Space, as the prime  contractor, will develop the service through the consolidation of the business plan and the preliminary  engagement of potential investors and customers. The company will also be responsible for the initial  development of the spacecraft, focusing on requirements, architectures, technology maturation and de risking activities. 

Thales Alenia Expands Collaboration

Thales Alenia Space in Italy is the industrial prime contractor. Thales Alenia Space in France will be involved  in the spacecraft development while ALTEC, a joint venture between Thales Alenia Space Italia (63,75%)  and the Italian Space Agency (36,25%), will be responsible of the Ground Segment and Recovery Ground  Support Infrastructure developments. During this Phase 1, the industrial team will be enlarged to include additional companies in order to capitalize on the existing know-how within the European space industry and  to ensure the most efficient execution of the project. 

The Phase 2 will cover the further development of the service and spacecraft, as well as the execution of the  demonstration mission. This demonstration mission, which includes the delivery of pressurized cargo to the  ISS and the safe return of the cargo back to Earth, is targeted by the end of 2028. 

A forward looking program positioning Europe in the upcoming space economy 

This program comes at a time when the space exploration landscape is evolving rapidly, with a blend of  institutional and commercial players embarking on missions to explore Low Earth Orbit, the Moon, and Mars.  Thales Alenia Space aims to develop a competitive and flexible end-to-end commercial passenger and cargo  transport service, raising the bar in terms of innovation and efficiency while reinforcing the company's role as  a major player in the upcoming space economy. 

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 can draw on more than its 40 years’ heritage in space exploration and transportation,  playing an undisputed role in the development of the International Space Station, of the Lunar Gateway and  the backbone of Orion’s service module, and participating in flagship transportation programs like IXV and  Space Rider. The future space ecosystem is calling for new solutions dedicated to the transportation and  return of cargo from LEO and the Lunar Orbit, as well as crew transportation to LEO. Thales Alenia Space is  ready to put in place what is needed to prepare for humanity’s future life and presence in space, laying the  foundations for the post-ISS era and meeting new economic needs in research and science. 

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