Thales Alenia Space, the joint company between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), will develop two key modules for the upcoming Lunar Orbital Platform–Gateway (LOP-G): I-HAB (International Habitat) and the ESPRIT communications and refueling module. These two modules are the European contribution for this Gateway. The first tranche of I-HAB contract, (worth 36 million euros, the global amount being 327 million euros), has been signed with the European Space Agency (ESA), while ESPRIT development has already started under Authorization To Proceed (ATP) with a contract signature expected by the end of the year.
This Gateway, a manned lunar orbital infrastructure, is one of the pillars of NASA’s Artemis program, designed to return humans to the Moon by 2024. It is being implemented through international cooperation, currently involving NASA (United States), ESA (Europe), JAXA (Japan) and CSA (Canada) with each partner in charge of the development of complementary elements, to be assembled and operated in lunar orbit as from 2024. The station, weighing about 40 metric tons, will be automatically assembled piece by piece in a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO)* around the Moon. The final configuration is still partly under final consolidation, but it will mainly comprise habitation modules for the crew offering as well docking capabilities for visiting vehicles and the Orion space capsule, logistics modules, communications with the Earth and Moon, EVA airlocks for scientific experiments and crew extravehicular activities (EVA), as well as a robotic arm. It is not intended for permanent occupancy, but will be able to host 4-person crews for periods of one to three months. Gaining new experiences on and around the Moon will prepare NASA to send the first humans to Mars in the coming years, and the Gateway will play a vital role in this process.
Hervé Derrey, CEO of Thales Alenia Space declared, “We would like to thank our customer ESA for continuing to place their trust in our ability to build Europe’s two main contributions to the lunar space station, as well as national space agencies in particular CNES and ASI for their support in these two programs. Through our contributions to the ISS, the Axiom commercial space station and now the lunar space station, we are expanding the possibilities in this field, not only in terms of technology, but also for the safety and comfort of astronauts.”
Thales Alenia Space has been chosen to build Europe’s two main contributions to this space station:
Massimo Claudio Comparini Senior Executive Vice President Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space, commented, “Through these contracts, Thales Alenia Space will call on the full sum of our expertise to expand our knowledge base and push back the frontiers of the cislunar exploration. Looking further ahead, this space station will be a jumping-off point for future human missions into deep space, including Mars”.
Thales Alenia Space will have to meet a number of daunting challenges to design and build these two modules:
Walter Cugno, Vice President, Science and Exploration at Thales Alenia Space concluded: I’m very proud that we have leveraged the expertise built up on the International Space Station to make us the European benchmark in orbital infrastructures and a pivotal partner in the Humanity’s return to the Moon challenge”.
*NRHO: an eccentric orbit with an apogee at 70,000 km and a perigee at 3,000 km, enabling the space station to revolve around the Earth at the same speed as the Moon, so that from Earth it will be seen as a lunar halo.
More About I-HAB and ESPRIT industrial contributions
I-HAB: Thales Alenia Space in Italy is program prime contractor, with responsibility for overall program management, product assurance and safety, system engineering, functional design, all components concerning human factors, thermal and mechanical systems, the primary structure and production of hatches, and the assembly, integration and testing (AIT) phase. Thales Alenia Space in France is in charge of software and avionics subsystems.
ESPRIT: Thales Alenia Space in France is program prime contractor, with Thales Alenia Space in Italy in charge of the pressurized tunnel and windows. Thales Alenia Space in the UK will contribute to the chemical refueling system, while OHB (as part of the core team) will be in charge of mechanical and thermal subsystems for the non-pressurized sections and the xenon refueling system. Selected in open competition, Thales Alenia Space in Belgium will provide the HLCS electrical Interfaces units (Remote Interface & Distribution Unit – RIDU) and the radio frequency amplifiers (TWTAs), Thales Alenia Space in Spain the S-band communication transponder and Thales Alenia Space in Italy for the K-Band transceiver.
About Artemis: moving forward to the Moon in 2024! The Artemis program will proceed in three phases: Artemis 1, a non-crewed flight to test the launch system and the Orion spacecraft together; Artemis 2, a first crewed flight of Orion; and Artemis 3, to land astronauts on the Moon as from 2024. The program will set up sustainable structures on the Moon and in lunar orbit to carry out further human exploration of the surface and various scientific investigations. The Gateway will be a key to this program: it will be used as an outpost for astronauts on their way to the Moon, and as a laboratory to carry out scientific research, and thus support the development of sustained Moon exploration by the end of the decade. As from 2024, astronauts will have two options: lift off from the Earth and land directly on the Moon; or dock their Orion space capsule to the station, then rocket down to the Moon.
About Thales Alenia Space involvement in the moving forward to the Moon challenge
Already providing the thermo-mechanical systems for Orion European Service Module as well as the European Space Agency contribution in the Gateway with ESPRIT and I-HAB, Thales Alenia Space is also involved in NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) initiative, as part of the Dynetics-led consortium recently chosen by NASA as well as in VIPER, the rover that NASA will send to the South Pole of the Moon in search for water. Moreover, Thales Alenia Space has been appointed by the European Space Agency, partnering with OHB Germany, for the engineering and feasibility study of the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3), envisioned as a versatile system that can support a variety of cargo delivery and science missions on the Lunar surface, in the frame of the ARTEMIS programme.
Date: Oct 15, 2020