The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded several contracts to European manufacturers to develop equipment for future Moon and Mars exploration missions, we learned Wednesday from concordant sources.
European participation in the American Artemis lunar program, which is due to return to the Moon in 2024, is notably materialized by the signing of a contract with Airbus for the construction of the third European service module of the American space vehicle Orion, announced the ‘ESA in a press release on the sidelines of the 71st International Astronautical Congress which is being held virtually.
The European manufacturer is also awarded the development of a lunar lander project, EL3. It will be responsible for transporting freight between the moon and the lunar space station, the “Lunar Gateway”.
The United States plans to assemble the Gateway, which will orbit the Moon, from 2023. It will serve as a laboratory and staging post for astronauts on their way to the Moon.
Smaller than the International Space Station (ISS), it is not intended to be permanently occupied but can accommodate up to 4 astronauts.
Shunned by Russia, the project is the subject of a partnership between Americans, Europeans, Canadians and Japanese.
Thales Alenia Space (TAS), specializing in pressurized space modules, was tasked with developing the I-HAB housing module for this station.
The first tranche of the contract signed by ESA for this module amounts to 36 million euros for a total amount of 327 million, specifies the joint company between the French Thales and the Italian Leonardo in a press release.
TAS is also responsible for the design of the Esprit communication and supply module for the future station. The contract, which must be formally notified soon, amounts to 295 million euros.
The company must also provide the structure of the logistics and housing module Halo, one of the first to form the Gateway, for the American Northrop Grumman.
The Italian Leonardo is in charge of the miniature laboratory on board the Russian lunar landing Luna-27.
Regarding Mars, exploration “will be marked by the international Mars Sample Return campaign,” according to ESA.
The European agency has thus instructed Airbus to develop the rover which will collect the samples taken from Mars by the American robot Perseverance, which took off at the end of July.
Airbus will also be responsible for building the probe (Earth Return Orbiter) which will bring the samples back to Earth in 2031.