Press releases

Thales Alenia Space reveals results of ASCEND feasibility study on space data centers

Press releases

Thales Alenia Space reveals results of ASCEND feasibility study on space data centers

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    Cannes, June 27, 2024 — Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), today announced the promising results of the ASCEND (Advanced Space Cloud for European Net zero emission and Data sovereignty) feasibility study. Launched in 2023 and funded by the European Commission under the Horizon Europe program, this initiative aims to study the feasibility of space-based data centers to work toward the EU Green Deal’s objective of net-zero carbon by 2050 and transform the European space and digital ecosystem.

    For this study, Thales Alenia Space coordinated a European consortium of partners with complementary expertise in environmental aspects (Carbone 4, VITO), cloud computing (Orange Business, CloudFerro, Hewlett Packard Enterprise), launchers (ArianeGroup), and orbital systems (German space agency DLR, Airbus Defence & Space, and Thales Alenia Space).

    A project within Europe’s reach


    ASCEND © Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes
    The purpose of the ASCEND study was to compare the environmental impacts of space-based and Earth-based data centers. It was also intended to validate the technological feasibility of developing, deploying and operating such centers in orbit. In order to significantly reduce the CO2 emissions generated by the processing and storage of digital, the results of the study estimate that such space infrastructures would require the development of a launcher ten times less emissive over its entire lifecycle. Moreover, space data centers would not require water to cool them, a key advantage in times of increasing drought.

    Curbing the energy and environment impacts of data centers could kick-start major investments within the framework of the EU Green Deal, potentially justifying the development of a high-capacity, eco-designed and reusable launcher. Thanks to ArianeGroup’s contribution and to analytics from ESA’s PROTEIN feasibility study, ASCEND validated the feasibility of a launcher capable of conducting multiple launches while mitigating their carbon footprint. Modular space infrastructures would be assembled in orbit using robotic technologies from the European Commission’s EROSS IOD (European Robotic Orbital Support Services In Orbit Demonstrator) led by Thales Alenia Space, scheduled to fly its first mission in 2026. This would enable Europe to restore its leadership in transportation, space logistics and assembly of large in-orbit infrastructures.

    Ensuring Europe’s digital sovereignty


    ASCEND © Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes

    The ASCEND project could contribute to Europe’s digital sovereignty, reducing its digital carbon footprint while ensuring data security for citizens and businesses alike. The market for data centers by 2030 is estimated at 23 gigawatts of capacity; ASCEND aims to deploy one gigawatt before 2050. The results of the study also confirm the project’s economic viability, offering a prospect of a return on investment of several billion euros between now and 2050.

    The results of the ASCEND study confirm that deploying data centers in space could transform the European digital landscape, offering a more eco-friendly and sovereign solution for hosting and processing data. We’re proud to be contributing to an initiative supporting Europe’s net-zero objectives and strengthening its technological sovereignty.” said Christophe Valorge, Chief Technical Officer, Thales Alenia Space.

    Thales Alenia Space and its partners now intend to pursue the ASCEND feasibility study to consolidate and optimize its results. At the same time, a paradigm shift within the space sector is required to accomplish the project’s goals, leveraging technologies that are within reach for Europe.

    Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Health and Digital Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the European Union or European Health and Digital Executive Agency can be held responsible for them.


    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 2.2 billion euros in 2023 and has around 8,600 employees in 17 sites in 10 countries across Europe and a plant in the USA.


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