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Thales Alenia Space to develop low-Earth orbit Cargo Return Service

Thales Alenia Space has signed a €25m contract with the European Space Agency to demonstrate a cargo delivery service to and from space stations in low-Earth orbit by 2028.

Earth Re-entry Vehicle technological demonstrator, R&D base for the future evolution of the LEO Cargo Return Service
Earth Re-entry Vehicle technological demonstrator, R&D base for the future evolution of the LEO Cargo Return Service - © Thales Alenia Space

The development of this LEO Cargo Return Service will be co-founded by Thales Alenia Space.

During this two-year phase contract, 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 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 and the Italian Space Agency, will be responsible of the Ground Segment and Recovery Ground Support Infrastructure developments.

During Phase 1, the industrial team will be enlarged to include additional companies to capitalise on the existing know-how within the European space industry and to ensure the most efficient execution of the project.

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 pressurised cargo to the ISS and the safe return of the cargo back to Earth, is targeted by the end of 2028.

“We’re truly honoured 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…the opportunity to develop a commercial service to offer on the global market,” Massimo Comparini, Deputy CEO and senior executive vice president, Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space said in a statement. “Thales Alenia Space has played, in the recent past, a key role in enabling mankind's ambitions in Low Earth Orbit. 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”