Space to Explore

Exploring the Solar System and understanding the universe

Thales Alenia Space has a long track record aboard some of the most extraordinary international missions exploring the solar system.

From the Sun to Saturn, and from Mercury to Venus, Jupiter and Mars, our solutions have been on every space odyssey seeking to unveil the universe’s most closely guarded secrets, in the process gathering enough data to keep scientists busy for decades. We have also embarked on missions to explore asteroids and comets, one of the most spectacular being Cassini-Huygens, the only European probe ever to land on Saturn’s moon Titan, in 2005. Thales Alenia Space built Huygens and the high-gain antenna, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and radiofrequency (RF) subsystem for the Cassini orbiter.

Artist impression of prospection activities in a moon base

As a matter of fact, the mission was launched in 1997 and the Huygens descent module would only set down on Saturn in 2005 after an interplanetary voyage of more than seven years. We also built the ExoMars mission’s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) circling the red planet since 2016, where it is serving as a communications relay between the rovers on the surface and Earth, and helping to analyze gases in Mars’ atmosphere, in particular methane. Now, with NASA’s future Artemis mission, all eyes are on the Moon—but more of that later.

We have led stellar science missions like Herschel and Planck, two space observatories designed to study the formation of galaxies and the origin of the Big Bang. There’s also the ALMA giant radiotelescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert, for which we supplied 25 of the 64 parabolic antennas.

The “star” of the moment is Euclid, an ESA science mission for which Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor. Successfully launched in July 2023, it aims to study dark energy and dark matter to delve deeper into what is driving the accelerating expansion of the universe.

A pivotal player on the International Space Station

©Thales Alenia Space

From the outset, we have been a top-tier player on the ISS, supplying most of its pressurized habitable volume. We built Nodes 2 and 3, the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM), the Multipurpose Logistics Modules (MPLM), the structure of the Columbus laboratory and the Cupola, famous the world over as the viewing gallery where astronauts have taken such spectacular pictures of our planet from the station’s 400-kilometer orbital perch. This high-tech marvel built in Turin, with its seven windows, is our astronaut friends’ favorite observation post on the ISS. We have also acquired significant expertise in pressurized cargo modules for the ATV and Cygnus resupply vehicles. Cygnus makes two trips to the station a year, ferrying food, water, spares and science experiments to the ISS crew. This unique expertise in Europe led the U.S. firm NanoRacks to select Thales Alenia Space to build the pressurized structure of its commercial module berthed to one of the ports of the station’s Tranquility module (Node 3).

©Thales Alenia Space / Master Image Programmes

Sending astronauts back to the Moon

The last crewed mission to Earth’s natural satellite reaches back to Apollo 17 in 1972. We have waited more than 50 years for the Moon to become a priority for space exploration once again. Why such a return to favor? In 2008, we discovered water on the Moon. There is also clear evidence of oxygen and hydrogen in lunar ice, which could be used for example to produce rocket fuel. The Moon’s subsurface also contains energy resources like helium 3.

©Thales Alenia Space

For NASA’s Artemis program, designed to send astronauts back to the Moon in the near future, an entire ecosystem will be required, comprising a Moon Village, a lunar economy and a cislunar crewed space station in elliptical orbit around the Moon. Communications and navigation systems will also be needed.

A world leader in orbital infrastructures, Thales Alenia Space is a top-tier industry partner on the Lunar Gateway, a 40-metric-ton space station for which we are supplying the ESPRIT and I-HAB pressurized modules to ESA, and the HALO module to Northrop Grumman. We have also been chosen to build two pressurized modules for Axiom Space’s commercial space station, for which Philippe Starck has designed the interiors.

©Axiom Space

The Moon is set to serve as a staging post and stepping stone for crewed deep-space missions, with Mars the next step on our journey. NASA has developed the Orion capsule with precisely these kinds of missions in mind. Thales Alenia Space is supplying the thermomechanical systems for the European service module. Working with Avio, we will also be building ESA’s Space Rider reusable autonomous space transportation system, which draws on the heritage of the IXV demonstrator.

Spearheading on-orbit servicing

©Thales Alenia Space / Master Image Programmes

Thales Alenia Space is developing a new solution set to attract a lot of attention in the years ahead. On-orbit servicing spacecraft are truly “Swiss Army knives” capable of performing robotic tasks and rendezvousing in space.

These will include repairs, maintenance, refueling, inspection and deorbiting of space debris. The goal is to extend satellites’ operational lifetime and thus limit the propagation of space debris—a disruptive approach to foster sustainable and eco-friendly space operations.


Space to

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Secure & defend

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Space to

Travel & navigate

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