Thales Alenia Space wins US$256 million Italian contract for servicing demo mission

by | May 17, 2023 | Finance, Launches, Technology

Thales Alenia Space has secured a US$256 million (€235m) contract from the Italian Space Agency (ASI) to develop a dedicated In-Orbit Servicing (IOS) demonstration mission scheduled to launch in 2026.

Thales Alenia Space is a joint venture between Thales, a French technology company, and Leonardo, an Italian defence group. They own 67 per cent and 33 per cent of the JV respectively. The Franco-Italian group will head up a consortium of companies for the mission, which will operate in low Earth orbit (LEO), including Leonardo, Telespazio, Avio and D-Orbit.

The mission will use a “dexterous robotic arm” to test technologies for future on-orbit servicing missions such as refuelling, conducting repairs, orbital transfer and atmospheric re-entry, according to Thales Alenia Space. The robotic arm will be jointly developed by Leonardo, SAB Aerospace, the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) and the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), while the servicer will be based on D-Orbit’s ION (In Orbit Now) orbital transfer vehicle. The space logistics company will also develop the refuelling system to transfer fluid from the servicer satellite to the target satellite. Meanwhile, Italian propulsion system developer Avio will manage the orbital support and propulsion module for the orbital stages.

Massimo Claudio Comparini, Senior Executive Vice President of observation, exploration and navigation at the JV, said: “The mission reflects the skills and experience of established players in complex space projects, coupled with the more agile approach provided by emerging space companies.” The process, he added, would give rise to an opportunity to develop all-Italian technologies to support the country’s space industry.


D-Orbit’s ION Satellite Carrier, an in-orbit transportation system, will be used for the mission. Courtesy: D-Orbit

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