Astrium, Europe’s number-one space company, has been awarded two studies by the European Space Agency (ESA) to define how to evolve technologies used on the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and the Columbus space laboratory for future space vehicles. The envisaged value of both studies is €13 million (€6.5 million per study).
ESA meets its obligation to contribute to the common system operating costs (CSOC) of the International Space Station (ISS) by producing and operating the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). After retirement of the US Space Shuttle, ATV is now the largest supply vehicle for the International Space Station. ATV is at present Europe’s most sophisticated vehicle with its innovative capability of automatic and autonomous rendezvous and docking.
Astrium will use its experience in designing and manufacturing the ATV supply vehicle and the Columbus laboratory to work on evolutions of the existing technologies for future use on a variety of missions.
In the first study, Astrium will investigate possible service-module (SM) solutions for the Orion capsule, also called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), which the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to deploy on space exploration missions. These solutions will be based on technologies developed for the European ATV’s service module which consists of the propulsion and avionics systems. This study is scheduled for completion before the end of 2012.
The second study aims to identify and define the concept of an autonomous space vehicle with an intrinsic versatility, also based on ATV know-how and technologies. Through adaptations this vehicle shall be capable of servicing multiple future missions, mainly in the field of “transportation missions in support of an orbital infrastructure in Low Earth Orbit”, “In-orbit servicing missions targeting an orbiting space vehicle/debris”, and “Resources generation missions in support to an autonomous Free Flyer / Habitat”. This study is also planned to be completed before the end of 2012.
Further decisions on future vehicle development will be taken at the next meeting of the ESA Ministerial Council in November 2012 in Italy.
The last ATV mission (ATV-5 “Georges Lemaître”) under the present launch schedule is planned for 2014, thus covering the CSOC obligation period until 2017.
After that an evolution of ATV based on these studies will be needed to “pay” Europe’s obligation towards its ISS partners up to 2020.
Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. In 2011, Astrium had a turnover close to €5 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands.
Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2011, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 49.1 billion and employed a workforce of over 133,000.