ESA to fetch stuff from space before ISS takes the plunge • The Register | Space

The European Space Agency has signed contracts with two European companies in a bid to get cargo back from the International Space Station (ISS) – hopefully before what is left of it is deorbited into the ocean.

ESA launched the competition in November 2023 and, six months later, selected a pair of winning proposals from The Exploration Company based in Germany and Italy’s Thales Alenia Space. Each was handed €25 million to assist in developing the cargo service.

Timing is tight. In 1998, ESA awarded Aérospatiale a contract to develop its last cargo freighter, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), but it took ten years before the first of five vehicles was launched. The ATV was, however, expendable and burnt up during re-entry. The new vehicle will allow cargo to be returned to Earth.

Thales Alenia Space is one of the key players when it comes to European endeavors in space. The company has more than four decades of heritage to draw upon and has contributed to the development of the ISS, the Lunar Gateway, and Orion’s service module.

The Italian biz…


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