Stratospheric EuroHAPS programme kicks off

The €43 million EuroHAPS (High-Altitude Platform Systems) project has formally got underway, aiming to develop multiple stratospheric reconnaissance platforms.

Stratobus - TAS

Led by Thales Alenia Space (TAS), the EuroHAPS consortium features 21 partners across 11 EU countries, including CIRA, Elettronica and Leonardo from Italy, ONERA and CEA from France, INTA from Spain, and ESG with TAO from Germany. The programme will seek to develop and demonstrate three separate yet complementary high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, including a solar powered airship, a hybrid airship with an aerofoil, and a stratospheric balloon system.

“We would like to thank all the institutional investors contributing to this project for their confidence and support in making this demonstration a reality,” said Hervé Derrey, CEO of Thales Alenia Space. “It is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious demonstrations ever undertaken, and will make Europe a pioneer in this new aerospace segment.”

Under development since 2016 at Thales Alenia Space, Stratobus is the solar powered stratospheric airship at the core of the programme. According to TAS, its design has been optimised around an airship roughly 140 metres in length, though EuroHAPS will see the company delivering ‘a reduced-scale Stratobus’. A large solar array powers the vehicle’s four electric motors, with Stratobus capable of operating for extended periods of time at altitudes of 18-20km, carrying payloads up to 250kg.  

EuroHAPS was initially selected by the European Commission in July 2022 following a call for collaborative defence research and development projects from the European Defence Fund (EDF). The individual platforms will be used to test a variety of missions, including lidar observation to detect and classify targets at sea or on land. Communications intelligence (COMINT) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) missions will also be tested, as well as a meshed broadband communications network.

The three platforms to be developed under EuroHAPS are:

  • A reduced-scale Stratobus from Thales Alenia Space, a solar-powered airship designed for long-endurance missions and offering large payload capacity
  • A Hybrid High Altitude Airship (HHAA or tactical HAPS) from CIRA, capable of generating extra lift with a wing aerofoil
  • An Autonomous Stratospheric Balloon System (ASBaS) from ESG and TAO consisting of a series of three altitude-controllable balloons

Demonstration flights are due to get underway in Sardinia and Fuerteventura in 2024.