Press releases

Thales Alenia Space signs contract with the Italian space agency to develop communications system for the International Mars Ice Mapper mission

Press releases

Thales Alenia Space signs contract with the Italian space agency to develop communications system for the International Mars Ice Mapper mission

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    The company will develop an innovative antenna for deep space to connect fixed or mobile infrastructure on Mars with Earth, capable of transmitting acquired radar images and science data

    Rome, March 8, 2024 – Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has signed a contract with the Italian space agency (ASI) to develop the communications subsystem for the innovative International Mars Ice Mapper (I-MIM) mission. This Phase B1 contract, worth a total amount of about €22 million, follows on from the previous Phase A award to Thales Alenia Space in 2021, successfully completed in 2022.

    I-MIM is a mission in partnership with the Italian space agency (ASI), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA to develop a Mars orbiter, with the goal of identifying and measuring the extent and volume of water ice in the mid- and low-latitude regions of Mars, where it is possible to plan the first potential human surface missions to Mars.



    Thales Alenia Space will be responsible for the mission’s multi-user communications system and will also develop the innovative Large Deployable Reflector (LDR) antenna enabling the orbiter to establish high-data-rate communications with ground stations in both Ka- and X-band. The same antenna will serve the SAR instrument operating in L-band. Thales Alenia Space will build a six-meter-aperture demonstration model of the LDR at the end of the two-year phase. A study of a complementary payload, based on a new VHF sounding radar to measure the depth of the ice profile to support and complement the SAR data, is also foreseen.

    “ASI’s decision to entrust us with the development of this innovative communications system confirms our company's long and recognized experience in the production of satellites and radar technologies for communications and Earth observation,” said Massimo Comparini, Deputy CEO and Senior Executive Vice President, Observation, Exploration, and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space. “With this large antenna, Thales Alenia Space is developing enabling technologies for future challenges in Earth observation, planetary observation and communications systems, as well as for institutional and commercial systems. In addition, our participation in the International Mars Ice Mapper mission will pave the way for us to play a primary role in Earth-Mars communications, a key step in preparing for future human missions.”

    Thales Alenia Space has long-standing expertise in the design, assembly, testing, and integration of large antennas for deep-space exploration missions such as Cassini-Huygens, which explored Saturn and its moon Titan, and BepiColombo, currently on its way to Mercury.


    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.


    Sandrine Bielecki Tel: +33 (0)4 92 92 70 94

    Catherine des Arcis
    Tél. : +33 (0)6 78 64 63 97

    Cinzia Marcanio Tel.: +39 (0)6 415 126 85