Space, Thales Alenia Space draws up 2023 budget: in orbit with sustainability

Connections, digital divide and protection of planet Earth among the objectives of the joint venture. On to innovation, the Moon and New Space

Thales Alenia Space look to the new year and chart a course towards one sustainable space through innovation. And, in taking stock of 2023, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%)
underlines that the past year was characterized by the strong development of innovation and initiatives New Space on the one hand and, on the other, by sustained efforts by governments and space agencies to address the crucial challenges of sovereignty, security, connectivity and environmental protection. A year “full of exceptional achievements for the future of the space sector” underlines Thales Alenia Space which thus retraces the steps taken in the year just ended.

Space to connect the world and reduce the digital divide. In 2023, Thales Alenia Space recalls having confirmed its commitment to reducing the digital divide. The commissioning of the Eutelsat Konnect VHTS and Eutelsat 10B satellites, of which the company was prime contractor, “makes it possible to offer advanced connectivity in areas without telecommunications infrastructure: in particular in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and above the Atlantic and Indian Oceans” underlines the joint venture. In the same vein, the historic agreement to build Chinggis Sat, Mongolia’s national satellite telecommunications system, promises to bring high-speed Internet connectivity across the country, in particular to facilitate access to telemedicine, electronic economy at the same time the growth of high value-added sectors of the economy. Among the telecommunications satellites launched in 2023, the Amazonas-Nexus satellite already makes it possible to strengthen connectivity for the entire American continent, while Satria, explains Tas, provides telecommunications services in poorly covered areas, the so-called white areas, of the 17,500 islands of the Indonesian archipelago.

But space is also to explore how the first surface lunar module did it and how the success of the Euclid mission demonstrated. Thales Alenia Space last year was awarded an important contract with the Italian Space Agency (Asi) for the MPH – Multi-Purpose Habitat project aimed at being the first permanent habitation outpost on the Moon. This agreement, explains the space giant, “consolidates Thales Alenia Space’s leading position in the design of habitation modules for manned space exploration”, given that the company already develops the ESPRIT, I-HAB and HALO pressurized modules for the Lunar Gateway and those of the commercial space station Axiom, whose first module will be launched in 2026.

The Euclid scientific satellite, launched in July 2023, also unveiled the first high-definition images from its orbit around the L2 Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system. These images of extraordinary quality, acquired at over 10 billion light-years, are the first of a long series that will draw the three-dimensional map of the Universe.

In 2023, Thales Alenia Space also played a leading role in the development of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ESM (European Service Module) service module technologies for the Orion capsule. The second European ESM service module, scheduled to launch no earlier than the end of 2024, will be used in the Artemis II mission which plans to fly around the Moon and then return to Earth. It will be the first spacecraft to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Furthermore, the joint venture is at the heart of satellite navigation programs: from Meolut Next to Galileo second generation (G2G). The development of Meolut Next, recalls Tas, has made it possible to improve search and rescue capabilities in Thailand and Vietnam, detecting and locating emergency signals on land, at sea and in the sky, over a distance of up to 5000 kilometers . Thales Alenia Space also signed contracts last year for the maintenance operations of Egnos V2 and the development of the ground segment of Galileo second generation (G2G), which offers advanced positioning, navigation and time reference performance to over 4 billion users all over the world. As responsible for the mission ground segment of the first generation of Galileo, operational since 2016, Thales Alenia Space continues to play a central role in the evolution of satellite navigation technologies.

But we also go into space to protect and defend: Tas has been at the center of emblematic missions at the service of governments. Thales Alenia Space, in partnership with the European Space Agency, has in fact signed two contracts for the creation of the Iris constellation which will be a pioneering Earth observation program for Italy and Europe. Furthermore, Thales Alenia Space has signed a historic agreement with PT Len Industri to supply the Indonesian Ministry of Defense with an advanced Earth observation constellation based on Thales Alenia Space’s new “All In One” optical and radar solution. The successful launch of the Syracuse 4B satellite also consolidated Thales Alenia Space’s position as a major player in military telecommunications.

Thales Alenia Space is also involved in the European Commission’s EuroHAPS project which aims to develop stratospheric demonstrators, such as Thales Alenia Space’s Stratobus, intended to improve the intelligence, surveillance, observation and telecommunications capabilities of existing and future satellite solutions.

Again in 2023, Thales Alenia Space celebrated the anniversaries of four of its European sites. In Toulouse the company celebrated 40 years of excellence in the fields of altimetry, payloads, civil and military telecommunications systems, satellite navigation and ground segments. The site in Charleroi, Belgium, celebrated 60 years of extraordinary achievements which have contributed to the growth of the European satellite and launcher industry. The Italian sites in Rome and L’Aquila have also celebrated 40 years of experience. The L’Aquila site, specialized in the production of electronic equipment and structural parts for satellites, also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the plant rebuilt in 2013 after the devastating earthquake of 2009. In parallel, the Rome site, dedicated to the design of space systems, Earth observation radars and military telecommunications satellites, remains the nerve center of Thales Alenia Space in Italy.

Well-being in the working environment and improvement of environmental performance are at the center of Tas’ space activities. “Thales Alenia Space, faithful to its values, has amplified its commitment to diversity and inclusion, in particular on the occasion of the European Week for the Employment of People with Disabilities” recalls the joint venture. The Cannes and Toulouse sites organized workshops, conferences, exhibitions and partnerships, thus consolidating their status as sites “welcoming to people with disabilities” which favors the inclusion of the 6.8% of disabled collaborators. A mentorship program dedicated to female talents has also been established, which offers accompaniment based on trust for the completion of tasks and career advancement.

This development opportunity, explains Tas, “is added to a coaching program intended to accompany all Talents who wish to clarify their priorities, identify their strengths and weaknesses, explore their transversal skills and find solutions that correspond to the own environment and values”. The company has also implemented the Wittyfit solution, allowing everyone to express themselves about their well-being and concerns at work. Initiatives such as Giving Tuesday and Generation Challenge have promoted solidarity and intergenerational communication as a driving force for performance.

In light of climate change, Thales Alenia Space has firmly committed itself to sustainable development by adopting the eco-design of its products and a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach. For example, the Toulouse plant inaugurated one of the largest parks of photovoltaic shelters in France, reducing CO2 emissions by 65 tonnes per year, equivalent to the consumption of over 630 families. The flagship initiatives also include the creation of the Climate Mural, a collaborative workshop launched in 2023, intended to raise awareness among teams of climate challenges and limit environmental impacts and pollution risks as much as possible.

A strategic understanding is that of technologies serving the protection of the planet. The SWOT satellite has in fact redefined the standards of Earth observation “offering images of unparalleled precision of the entire world’s waterways” recalls Tas. Once completed, the SWOT mission will map 90% of continental surface waters, thus offering an unprecedented vision of the planet’s water resources. The first images from the MTG-I1 satellite marked a major breakthrough in the detection of severe storms over Europe and Africa, confirming the mission’s revolutionary potential for detecting and predicting extreme weather events. In parallel to this ambitious programme, Thales Alenia Space is leading the European Space Agency (ESA) Solaris feasibility study aimed at developing new concepts for a solar energy supply system from space. Additionally, the company contributes to an Earth digital twin concept to predict floods as part of the European Commission’s DestinE initiative.

A year under the sign of innovation and New Space. Thales Alenia Space consolidated its leadership position in the New Space sector in 2023 with the creation of Space Business Catalyst, an innovative industrial accelerator to support revolutionary entrepreneurs and startups in the sector by providing them with commercial, financial and technical support. This commitment in the field of innovation, underlines the joint venture, has been consolidated with the creation of SiPack, an assembly line for advanced chips born from the strategic partnership with Synergie Cad PSC. SiPack aims to produce up to 100,000 pieces per year by 2025 and aims to become a reference in Europe for New Space, “fabless” production, the electronic and microelectronic industries.

Finally, the announcement of the Space Smart Factory project represented “a significant step forward for the creation of a more agile and connected industry” says Tas, highlighting that this 21,000 square meter factory, which will be one of the largest in Europe, it will use industry 4.0 technologies such as digital modeling, digital twins, virtual and augmented reality, as well as simulators integrated with the supply chain and automation with robots and cobots. (by Andreana d’Aquino)