Tag Archives: Airbus

Gravitational waves

Airbus has been awarded a contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to further develop the implementation of LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), one of the most ambitious science missions ESA has planned to date. With Phase B1 now underway, the detailed mission design and final technology development activities for the gravitational wave observatory are due to be completed by 2024, with launch planned for the late 2030s.

Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA)
Airbus to further develop LISA gravitational wave observatory mission

Gravitational waves were first postulated by Albert Einstein. They are distortions in space-time, created when for example supermassive black holes – billions of times heavier than our sun – merge. These events are so powerful that the resulting gravitational waves can be measured by sensitive instruments from billions of light years away.

To measure these waves, LISA consists of three spacecraft that form an equilateral triangle deep in space, 2.5 million kilometres/1,553,428 miles apart from each other. Gravitational waves stretch and compress space-time, causing the tiniest changes in distance between the LISA probes (less than the diameter of an atom). Any movements of test masses that free-fall inside the three spacecraft when a gravitational wave passes can be detected by the spacecrafts’ sensitive instruments. LISA will do this by using lasers that continuously transmit back and forth between the satellites using interferometry, measuring the distance between each of the test masses.

Some of the key technologies required for LISA were successfully tested in space with the LISA Pathfinder (LPF) mission developed and built by Airbus as prime. The mission results showed that LPF operated even more precisely than required for LISA. LPF was launched on 3rd December 2015 and ended in July 2017.

Gravitational waves are a new research method that uses gravity instead of light to measure dynamic processes in the universe. The study of gravitational waves offers enormous potential for discovering parts of the universe that are invisible in other ways. LISA will significantly expand our knowledge of the beginning, evolution, and structure of our universe. Gravitational waves have been detected by ground-based observatories in recent years – by experiments such as Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the European Virgo observatory – but these facilities are limited in size and sensitivity, meaning that they are only able to detect high-frequency gravitational waves from particular sources (such as merging stellar-mass black holes and neutron stars).

Launch of three-spacecraft constellation planned for late 2030s

eXtra Performance Wing

Airbus has completed wind-tunnel testing of its eXtra Performance Wing demonstrator in its quest to quickly test and accelerate new technologies that will decarbonise the aviation industry.

eXtra Performance Wing
The eXtra Performance Wing demonstrator will use a Cessna Citation VII business jet platform

The eXtra Performance Wing project, launched last September, takes inspiration from nature to improve wing aerodynamics and performance that is intended to be compatible with any future aircraft configuration and propulsion system to reduce CO₂ emissions.

«The scaled demonstrator will integrate and fly breakthrough wing technologies using a remote-controlled Cessna Citation VII business jet platform in representative flight conditions», explained Oliver Family, Head of eXtra Performance Wing UK.

«The partly 3D-printed wind-tunnel model – expertly built by the aerodynamics team at Airbus’ low-speed, wind-tunnel facility in Bristol – is a scaled-down version of the Cessna jet, incorporating the lightweight, long-span design of the eXtra Performance Wing that will provide the emissions benefits we are striving for».

Initially introduced at a smaller scale through another Airbus project, AlbatrossONE, which tested semi-aeroelastic hinged wings that – like the seabird – unlocked during flight when experiencing wind gusts or turbulence, the eXtra Performance Wing will also examine onboard technologies, like gust sensors, pop-up spoilers and multifunctional trailing edges, to enable the active control of the wing.

«Airbus’ state-of-the-art low-speed wind-tunnel is a fantastic way to validate our concepts before flight tests», added Oliver Family. «Our computational aerodynamic analysis capability is world class, and the wind tunnel provides another valuable way to measure the performance and capabilities of the aircraft before flight testing. The technologies we have tested in the Filton wind tunnel – many inspired by biomimicry – will now be rapidly integrated for flight testing».

The Airbus low-speed wind tunnel at Filton, near Bristol, replicates conditions similar to aircraft take-off and landing wind speeds but is also used by external organisations testing F1 cars, ship radar systems, Urban Air Mobility vehicles as well as more conventional aircraft.

The eXtra Performance Wing demonstrator is hosted within Airbus UpNext, a wholly-owned Airbus subsidiary, created to give future technologies a development fast-track by building demonstrators at speed and scale in order to evaluate, mature and validate potential new products and services that encompass radical technological breakthroughs.

Remote Carrier launcher

Airbus A400M Atlas, the world’s most advanced multi-role airlifter utilised by military forces around the globe, has demonstrated an airborne launch of a drone fulfilling a vital function for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

Do-DT25 drone
Future Combat Air System: A400M clears the first hurdle as a Remote Carrier launcher

During a recent test, an A400M Atlas deployed a drone from its opened rear cargo ramp door whilst airborne, validating its ability to air-launch drones. In the future such unmanned aircraft, called Remote Carriers, can serve as force multipliers for various missions, while keeping the pilots out of harm’s way. Manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) will allow the Remote Carriers to operate in concert with manned aircraft, opening new fields of tactics to surprise, deceive, deter, saturate and strike opponents.

During the A400M Atlas flight test, an Airbus-built Do-DT25 drone, acting as a surrogate Remote Carrier, was released over a test range in Northern Germany. Shortly after the launch, the drone’s parachute opened, delivering it safely to the ground. Throughout the test, the drone was connected and transmitting data to the A400M Atlas «mother aircraft». This data transfer illustrates how Remote Carriers can be connected to a combat cloud network, providing vital information by serving the role of «eyes and ears» over the battlefield, whilst also enabling them to be tasked by the manned aircraft’s operators during their missions.

 

Building up the expertise in manned-unmanned teaming

The A400M Atlas air-launch demonstration involved a joint flight test crew from the German Air Force and Airbus. The new Modular Airborne Combat Cloud Services (MACCS), also an Airbus product, enabled full connectivity between the airlifter and the drone.

Airbus will continue validation of the A400M Atlas as an airborne launch platform for Remote Carriers, envisioning the ability to deploy large numbers of these drones. The multi-role airlifter’s large cargo bay is expected to be able to hold 40 or more Remote Carriers. By bringing Remote Carriers closer to the fight, an A400M Atlas will provide the numbers in terms of flying platforms for a Future Combat System to serve multiple missions, even in a well-protected environment. The next flight test is planned to happen this year.

In addition, Airbus contribution to the 2021 German Air Force’s Timber Express exercise saw an important development step being cleared. A Eurofighter networking with and tasking two Do-DT25 drones in real-time, became the successful first application of MUM-T with operational military aircraft in Europe.

Previously, Airbus also demonstrated the control of five Do-DT25 drones by a mission group commander who was airborne in a manned command and control aircraft. Validating such elements, as connectivity, human-machine interface, and the concept of teaming intelligence through mission group management, also constitute key steps towards using Remote Carriers as force multipliers within the Future Combat Air System.

Power Management

Airbus Crisa, an affiliate company of Airbus, has signed a contract for the development of the Power Management and Distribution (PMAD) system for the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) with Northrop Grumman.

Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO)
Airbus to develop the Power Management and Distribution System for key Lunar Gateway module

Airbus Crisa is a Spanish company founded in 1985 to design and manufacture electronic equipment and software for space applications, and engineering projects for ground stations. It is fully integrated into Airbus Defence and Space.

The new Lunar Gateway station, scheduled for launch in 2024, will initially have two modules and will be expanded in successive years to five modules. The station is intended to serve as a space laboratory as well as an intermediate logistics post for future trips to the surface of the Moon and on to Mars. The two initial modules are known as PPE and HALO. PPE (Power and Propulsion Element) has solar arrays that power the station and thrusters that allow it to maintain a stable orbit around the Moon. HALO is the Habitation and Logistics Outpost module where the astronauts will live during the estimated 40 days of the first missions.

«This contract worth more than $50 million reflects our ability to deliver highly specialised space equipment to global manufacturers and is our first contribution to the Moon-orbiting Gateway, which is part of NASA’s Artemis programme to return to the Moon», said Fernando Gómez-Carpintero, CEO of Airbus Crisa. «This is an exciting step as Airbus Crisa is designing the PMAD to become the standard modular power management system for all future space stations and human vehicles. We have provided a disruptive solution, with an architectural concept never before seen in the sector. This lays the foundations for a new international standard, placing the company at the forefront of the sector».

The PMAD has four power units and will manage the electricity from the solar panels of the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). It will distribute the power to onboard equipment and the rest of the station as required, always ensuring the safety of the crew on board. The PMAD will power the life support system, the interior lighting, the communications systems and the scientific experiments. It will ensure that HALO’s battery remains at optimal levels and is ready for use when the panels do not receive sufficient sunlight. PMAD must also provide power to visiting vehicles when they dock.

Airbus Crisa is a key international player in the fields of power conversion digital control and energy management and distribution for satellite and launcher applications thanks to the experience gained in the challenging European Space Agency (ESA) exploration missions. This contract demonstrates its great potential to provide reliable flight products to U.S. manufacturers.

Manufacturing in India

India has formalised the acquisition of 56 Airbus C295 aircraft to replace the Indian Air Force (IAF) legacy AVRO fleet. It is the first ‘Make in India’ aerospace programme in the private sector, involving the full development of a complete industrial ecosystem: from the manufacture to assembly, test and qualification, to delivery and maintenance of the complete lifecycle of the aircraft.

Airbus C295
India formalises acquisition of 56 Airbus C295 aircraft

Under the contractual agreement, Airbus will deliver the first 16 aircraft in ‘fly-away’ condition from its final assembly line in Seville, Spain. The subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by the Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.

The first 16 aircraft will be delivered over four years after the contract implementation. All the IAF C295s will be handed over in transport configuration and equipped with an indigenous Electronic Warfare Suite.

«This contract will support the further development of India’s aerospace ecosystem, bringing investment and 15,000 skilled direct jobs and 10,000 indirect positions over the coming 10 years», said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. «The C295 has proven again as the segment leader, and with the addition of India as a new operator, the type will enlarge its footprint even more, not only on the operational aspects but on its own industrial and technological development».

Sukaran Singh, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tata Advanced Systems Limited, said, «This is a moment of pride for Tatas and a milestone for the Indian military manufacturing ecosystem. For the first time, an Indian private company will be wholly manufacturing an aircraft in India. This endeavour demonstrates Tata Advanced Systems’ capabilities as a defence manufacturer to build globally competitive complex platforms in India».

‘Make in India’ is at the heart of Airbus strategy in India, with the company constantly increasing the country’s contribution to its global product portfolio. The C295 programme will see Airbus bring its complete bouquet of world-class aircraft manufacturing and servicing to India in collaboration with our industrial partners, including the Tatas and leading defence public sector units such as Bharat Electronics Ltd. and Bharat Dynamics Ltd, as well as private Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

With a proven capability of operating from short or unprepared airstrips, the C295 is used for tactical transport of up to 71 troops or 50 paratroopers, and for logistic operations to locations that are not accessible to current heavier aircraft. It can airdrop paratroops and loads, and also be used for casualty or medical evacuation (medevac), as demonstrated during the COVID-19 crisis, using either basic litters or mobile Intensive Care Units (ICU) with life support equipment. The aircraft can perform special missions as well as disaster response and maritime patrol duties.

The IAF becomes the 35th C295 operator worldwide, with the programme reaching 278 aircraft, 200 of which are already in operation and have booked more than half a million flight-hours.

Earth Return Orbiter

Airbus has passed an important milestone for the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) mission, which will bring the first Mars samples back to Earth: it has passed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) with the European Space Agency (ESA) and with the participation of NASA.

Earth Return Orbiter (ERO)
ESA/NASA validate Airbus design

With technical specifications and designs validated, suppliers from eight European countries are on board for nearly all components and sub-assemblies. Development and testing of equipments and sub-systems can now start to ensure the mission moves ahead on schedule.

«This PDR has been managed and closed in a record time of less than a year, an amazing achievement considering the complexity of the mission. The entire ERO team, including suppliers and agencies, has really pulled together and we are on target to achieve delivery in 2025 – only five and a half years after being selected as prime contractor», said Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus.

The next milestone will be the Critical Design Review in two years after which production and assembly will start, to secure delivery of the full spacecraft in 2025.

After launch in 2026, on an Ariane 64 launcher, the satellite will begin a five year mission to Mars, acting as a communication relay with the surface missions (including Perseverance and Sample Fetch Rovers), performing a rendezvous with the orbiting samples and bringing them safely back to Earth.

Dave Parker, Director of human and robotic exploration at ESA, said: «On behalf of all European citizens, I am proud to see ESA leading the first ever mission to return from Mars. As part of our strong cooperation with NASA, we are working to return pristine material from Mars – scientific treasure that the world’s scientists will study for generations to come and help reveal the history of the Red Planet».

Airbus has overall responsibility for the ERO mission, developing the spacecraft in Toulouse, and conducting mission analysis in Stevenage. Thales Alenia Space will also have an important role, assembling the spacecraft, developing the communication system and providing the Orbit Insertion Module from its plant in Turin. Other suppliers come from Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands.

The record development and design for ERO was only possible thanks to Airbus building on already mature and proven technologies, instead of developing brand new technologies with risk associated delays.

Proven Airbus technologies include the decades of experience in plasma (electric) propulsion, acquired through station keeping and in orbit operations of full electric telecom satellites, as well as its expertise on large solar arrays (telecoms and exploration missions, including JUICE, the biggest solar panels for an interplanetary mission until ERO) and complex planetary missions like BepiColombo, launched in 2018.

Airbus will also leverage its vision based navigation technological lead (RemoveDEBRIS, Automatic Air to Air refueling), and autonomous navigation expertise (Rosalind Franklin and Sample Fetch Rovers) and rendezvous and docking expertise built up over decades, using technologies from the successful ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) and recent developments from JUICE, Europe’s first mission to Jupiter.

The seven ton, seven metre high spacecraft, equipped with 144 m² solar arrays with a span of over 40 m – the largest ever built – will take about a year to reach Mars. It will use a mass-efficient hybrid propulsion system combining electric propulsion for the cruise and spiral down phases and chemical propulsion for Mars orbit insertion. Upon arrival, it will provide communications coverage for the NASA Perseverance Rover and Sample Retrieval Lander (SRL) missions, two essential parts of the Mars Sample Return campaign.

For the second part of its mission, ERO will have to detect, rendezvous with, and capture a basketball-size object called the Orbiting Sample (OS), which houses the sample tubes collected by the Sample Fetch Rover (SFR, also to be designed and built by Airbus); all this over 50 million km away from ground control.

Once captured, the OS will be bio-sealed in a secondary containment system and placed inside the Earth Entry Vehicle (EEV), effectively a third containment system, to ensure that the precious samples reach the Earth’s surface intact for maximum scientific return.

It will then take another year for ERO to make its way back to Earth, where it will send the EEV on a precision trajectory towards a pre-defined landing site, before itself entering into a stable orbit around the Sun.

The 100th A400M

Airbus has reached 100 A400M Atlas deliveries with MSN111, the tenth A400M Atlas for the Spanish Air Force. The aircraft performed its ferry flight on 24th May from Seville to Zaragoza, where the Spanish A400M Atlas fleet is based.

A400M Atlas
Airbus delivers the 100th A400M Atlas

In the same week, the A400M Atlas global fleet also achieved the 100,000 flight-hours landmark performing missions worldwide for all eight customer nations.

All A400M Atlas operators have been able to operate the aircraft intensively for Covid-19 emergency response missions, as well as conduct joint, collaborative operations.

These milestones clearly demonstrate the maturity of the A400M Atlas programme on all fronts.

 

New capabilities

Recently the A400M Atlas successfully conducted a major helicopter air-to-air refuelling certification flight test campaign in coordination with the DGA (French Directorate General of Armaments), completing the majority of its certification objectives, including the first simultaneous refueling of two helicopters.

The A400M Atlas is already able to drop up to 116 paratroopers, via simultaneous dispatch from the side doors with automatic parachute opening, or from the ramp with automatic parachute opening or in freefall, day and night. Recent tests were completed in Spain, in collaboration with the UK Royal Air Force parachute test team, to expand up to 25,000 feet (7,600 metres) for automatic parachute opening – and up to 38,000ft (11,582 metres) for free fall.

The A400M Atlas also completed additional tests to expand its air drop capability, including multiple platforms with parachute extraction (23 tonnes). France and Spain participated in these flights. Another way to deliver cargo on austere airstrips without handling equipment was also certified: Combat offload of up to 19 tonnes of pallets (one pass) or 25 tonnes (two passes) on paved or unpaved airstrips.

The A400M Atlas also achieved a new decisive milestone after the certification flights of its Automatic Low Level Flight capability for Instrumental Meteorological Conditions (IMC). Using navigation systems and terrain databases, without the need of a terrain-following radar, this is a first for a military transport aircraft. This makes the aircraft less detectable in hostile areas and less susceptible to threats while conducting operations in hostile environments.

 

In operation

In terms of collaborative missions, the Spanish Air Force supported the French Armée de l´Air in the transport of a Caracal helicopter from Cazaux (France) to Tucson (USA), using a Spanish A400M Atlas. The flight was used by CLAEX (Spanish Logistics Center for Armament and Experimentation) and CECTA (Air Transport Cargo Evaluation Cell) to validate the loading process on Spanish A400Ms.

Key military missions last year included the delivery of almost 40 tonnes of food, water, fuel and ammunition by a single French A400M Atlas to troops based in the Sahel region of Africa, the first A400M Atlas to airdrop supplies in a country outside of Europe.

In addition, Germany became the first A400M Atlas customer to use the A400M Atlas as a tanker in real missions providing support in the «Counter Daesh» operation in Jordan.

 

Life-saving medevac missions during COVID-19

2020 and 2021 also saw the use of the A400M Atlas in civil emergency response roles during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, not least for civil medical evacuation (medevac) duties – with Airbus providing critical support for air force operators – as well as for transporting key medical relief supplies. The versatility of the aircraft also allowed a rapid conversion to medevac configuration, where installed critical care modules provided airborne intensive care units.

With the maturity, versatility and unique capabilities proven in operations all around the world, A400M Atlas is proving to be a game changer for military airlift and humanitarian missions in the 21st century.

 

Specifications

DIMENSIONS
Overall Length 45.10 m/148 feet
Overall Height 14.70 m/48 feet
Wing Span 42.40 m/139 feet
Cargo Hold Length (ramp excluded) 17.71 m/58 feet
Cargo Hold Height 3.85-4.00 m/12 feet 7 inch-13 feet
Cargo Hold Width 4.00 m/13 feet
Cargo Hold Volume 340 m3/12,000 feet3
WEIGHTS
Maximum Take Off Weight 141,000 kg/310,850 lbs
Maximum Landing Weight 123,000 kg/271,200 lbs
Internal Fuel Weight 50,500 kg/111,300 lbs
Maximum Payload 37,000 kg/81,600 lbs
ENGINE (×4)
EuroProp International TP400-D6 11,000 shp/8,200 kW
PERFORMANCE
Maximum Operating Altitude 12,200 m/40,000 feet
Maximum Cruise Speed (TAS) 300 knots/345 mph/555 km/h
Cruise Speed Range 0.68-0.72 M
RANGE
Range with Maximum Payload (37,000 kg/81,600 lbs) 1,780 NM/2,050 miles/3,300 km
Range with 30,000 kg/66,000 lbs Payload 2,450 NM/2,796 miles/4,500 km
Range with 20,000 kg/44,000 lbs Payload 3,450 NM/3,977 miles/6,400 km
Maximum Range (Ferry) 4,700 NM/5,406 miles/8,700 km

 

Laser Communication

Airbus and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) have launched a programme to develop a laser communication terminal demonstrator for aircraft, known as UltraAir.

ScyLight
Airbus and TNO to develop aircraft laser communication terminal

The project, which is co-financed by Airbus, TNO and the Netherlands Space Office (NSO), is part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ScyLight (Secure and Laser communication technology) programme. It covers the design, construction and testing of the technology demonstrator. Laser communication technologies are the next revolution in satellite communications (satcom), bringing unprecedented transmission rates, data security and resilience to meet commercial needs in the next decade.

The UltraAir terminal will be capable of laser connections between an aircraft and a satellite in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the Earth, with unparalleled technology including a highly stable and precise optical mechatronic system. The technology demonstrator will pave the way for a future UltraAir product with which data transmission rates could reach several gigabits-per-second while providing anti-jamming and low probability of interception. In this way UltraAir will not only enable military aircraft and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to connect within a combat cloud, but also in the longer term allow airline passengers to establish high-speed data connections thanks to the Airbus’ SpaceDataHighway constellation. From their position in geostationary orbit, the SpaceDataHighway (EDRS) satellites relay data collected by observation satellites to Earth in near-real-time, a process that would normally take several hours.

Airbus is leading the project and brings its unique expertise in laser satellite communications, developed with the SpaceDataHighway programme. It will coordinate the development of the terminal and testing on the ground and in the air. As key partner of the project, TNO provides its experience in high-precision opto-mechatronics, supported by the Dutch high-tech and space industry. Airbus Defence and Space in the Netherlands will be responsible for the industrial production of the terminals. Airbus’ subsidiary Tesat brings its technical expertise in laser communication systems and will be involved in all testing activities.

The first tests will take place at the end of 2021 in laboratory conditions at Tesat. In a second phase, ground tests will start early 2022 in Tenerife (Spain), where connectivity will be established between an UltraAir demonstrator and the laser terminal embarked on the Alphasat satellite using the ESA Optical Ground Station. For the final verification, the UltraAir demonstrator will be integrated on an aircraft for flight testing by mid-2022.

As satellite services demand is growing, the traditional satcom radio-frequency bands are experiencing bottlenecks. Laser links also have the benefit of avoiding interference and detection, as in comparison to the already-crowded radio frequencies, laser communication is extremely difficult to intercept due to a much narrower beam. Thus, laser terminals can be lighter, consume less power and offer even better security than radio.

This new programme is a key milestone in the roadmap of Airbus’ overall strategy to drive laser communications further, which will bring forward the benefits of this technology as a key differentiator for providing Multi-Domain collaboration for Government and defence customers.

Factory in space

Airbus has been selected by the European Commission to study spacecraft manufacturing in space through the Horizon 2020 Programme. The PERIOD (PERASPERA In-Orbit Demonstration) project focuses on satellite assembly and manufacturing in orbit. This A/B1 phase study contract, worth €3 million, will last two years, with the objective to continue with a demonstrator in orbit.

PERIOD Demonstrator
Airbus pioneers first satellite factory in space

The «orbital factory» envisioned by PERIOD will pioneer construction of major components such as antenna reflectors, assembly of spacecraft components and satellite payload replacements, directly in space.

This is the precursor to future manufacturing of large structures in orbit. Producing directly in orbit will revolutionise the way space systems are designed, built and operated. It has significant advantages over the traditional approach – where everything is produced on Earth and subsequently transported to space – since objects made in space are freed from the constraints and requirements of launch (launcher mass and volume limitations, structural strength to withstand launch).

To achieve this goal, Airbus Defence and Space in Bremen, is leading a team of seven European innovators, bringing their own expertise in fields such as robotic operation, virtual reality, and in-space assembly: DFKI, EASN-TIS, GMV, GMV-SKY, ISISPACE, SENER Aeroespacial and Space Applications Services.

By validating disruptive capabilities, PERIOD will demonstrate the value of in space servicing, manufacturing and assembly. It will also help Europe develop capability and industrial infrastructure to put it at the leading edge of the in-orbit servicing and manufacturing market. PERIOD will stimulate future research and generate new market opportunities, leading to jobs and growth in forward-looking technology.

The future space factory, as well as the demonstrator, could be orbited by a launcher and would then activate and start producing in orbit as a free flyer. An alternative demonstration mission, offering more flexibility and for a lower cost, would be to use ISS infrastructure.

«Airbus has been working on in-orbit manufacturing technologies for more than a decade and the PERIOD programme will help Europe move its combined technological know-how to the next level», said Silvio Sandrone, head of Space Exploration future projects at Airbus. «Future large scale space systems can only be manufactured and assembled in orbit, so it’s crucial that Europe is at the forefront of this key capability».

Airbus teams are already involved in a number of other in-space research programmes including Metal3D, the first ever metal 3D printer due to be deployed to space next year, in a project funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), and the MANTOS project, which demonstrated robotic and AI-based assembly operations with the support of German Space Agency (DLR).

Space Manufacturing Reflector
In-space antenna and satellite assembly: first steps towards space manufacturing

Moon Cruiser

Airbus has been awarded a CLTV (Cis-Lunar Transfer Vehicle) study for a «Moon Cruiser» by the European Space Agency (ESA). According to the study concept (two parallel Phase A/B1), the CLTV is a versatile, autonomous logistics vehicle that could, for example, provide timely and efficient support to NASA and ESA in the implementation of the future Artemis Moon missions. The spacecraft will be based on existing and proven technologies and will complement the multipurpose European Large Logistic Lander (EL3).

CLTV (Cis-Lunar Transfer Vehicle)
Versatile, autonomous logistics vehicle to support future lunar missions based on heritage from Orion ESM and ATV

The execution of lunar missions, including landing on the Moon and setting up upcoming lunar space station, Gateway, is a complex and challenging task for the international community. It requires a precisely planned chain of supply and logistics missions. The Airbus Moon Cruiser concept supports these challenges in several ways:

  • Gateway logistics: the CLTV can transport cargo or fuel for refuelling in lunar orbit and to the Gateway, the international project led by the two main contributors NASA (United States) and ESA (Europe), supporting a sustainable presence on the Moon and exploration beyond and a pillar of NASA’s Artemis programme.
  • Transfer of a large Lunar Module into Low Lunar Orbit: The CLTV is required to fly a lander or an ascent stage between the Gateway and the low lunar orbit, to perform landing and ascent missions with larger and more extensive services.
  • CLTV’s versatility will also allow it to support missions to post-ISS orbital infrastructure in LEO as well as missions in the field of GEO satcom servicing.

The CLTV’s design allows multiple mission types to be carried out with a single vehicle and is compatible with various launchers. Airbus’ solution is a mature, versatile and modular concept based on a large portfolio of mission and vehicle designs for Human Space-flight and Exploration built by Airbus for ESA including the Orion European Service Module (ESM), as well as five successful Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) space transporter missions, carrying a total of around 30 tonnes of cargo into space.

«With the Airbus Moon Cruiser concept for CLTV, we are establishing the first building blocks for humans and machines to work together all the way between the Earth and the Moon. CLTV can serve Gateway logistics and add value to the EL3 Large Lunar Lander by enabling additional missions, whether standalone for Europe or as part of wider international co-operation», said Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus.

The CLTV can be launched on Ariane 6, and it could transport a module of over 4.5 tonnes to the Gateway. The European Space Agency ESA could deploy the CLTV in the second half of the decade and it is planned that the CLTV will literally «cruise» on a direct flight path to the Moon.

The target is to validate the following, implementation phase (B2/C/D) of CLTV at the next Ministerial Council in 2022, with the aim of launching in 2027.

Airbus is building the European Service Module for ESA for the new NASA spacecraft Orion, the central spacecraft of future NASA space exploration. The first service module has already been delivered to NASA by Airbus. A second service module is currently being built at Airbus in Bremen. The first launch for Orion – a test flight without astronauts – will take Orion into a lunar orbit and back to Earth under the Artemis I mission and is scheduled for 2021.