Tag Archives: ESA

Module for Orion

The second Airbus-built European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft is ready for delivery from the Airbus site in Bremen, Germany. An Antonov cargo aircraft will fly the ESM-2 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus as the prime contractor for the development and manufacture of six ESMs with the first ESM soon to fly on NASA’s Artemis I mission.

European Service Module (ESM)
Airbus delivers second European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft

The ESM is a key element of Orion, the next-generation spacecraft that will transport astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the end of the Apollo programme in the 1970s. The module provides propulsion, power and thermal control and will supply astronauts with water and oxygen on future missions. The ESM is installed underneath the crew module and together they form the Orion spacecraft.

«Delivery of the second European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft marks another huge step forward on the journey to return astronauts to the Moon. Working hand in hand with our customers ESA and NASA, and our industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Space, the programme is moving apace and we are ready to meet the challenges of returning to the lunar surface in 2024», said Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus.

ESM-2 underwent a comprehensive validation process prior to being readied for shipment including gimbal testing of the module’s main engine (which swivels from side to side for manoeuvring and directional control during spaceflight). This main engine is a refurbished engine from Space Shuttle Atlantis.

After completing its trans-Atlantic voyage, ESM-2 will be mated with the Orion Crew Module and undergo further extensive testing before integration with the launcher – a process that will take around two years.

The launch of the first Orion spacecraft on NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket will be uncrewed and take the spacecraft more than 64,000 kilometres beyond the Moon in order to demonstrate its capabilities. The first human spaceflight mission, Artemis II, will be powered by ESM-2.

The design of the Orion spacecraft enables astronauts to be transported further into space than ever before. The spacecraft will transport four astronauts, providing life support for the crew during the flight and enabling a safe return to Earth’s atmosphere, at extremely high re-entry speeds.

The ESM comprises more than 20,000 parts and components, from electrical equipment to engines, solar panels, fuel tanks and life support materials, as well as several kilometres of cables and tubing.

The ESM is a cylinder around four metres high and wide. Comparable to the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV 2008 – 2015), also built by Airbus, it has a distinctive four-wing solar array (19 metres across when unfurled) that generates enough energy to power two households. The service module’s 8.6 tons of fuel can power the main engine, eight auxiliary thrusters and 24 smaller thrusters used for attitude control.

At launch, the ESM weighs a total of just over 13 tons. In addition to its function as the main propulsion system for the Orion spacecraft, the ESM will be responsible for orbital manoeuvring and position control. It also provides the crew with the central elements of life support such as water and oxygen, and regulates thermal control while it is docked to the crew module. Furthermore, the unpressurised service module can be used to carry additional payload.

In the longer term it is planned to dock Orion spacecraft with the International Lunar Gateway – a Moon orbiting platform that will enable a sustainable space exploration architecture extending humanity’s presence in space.

Hybrid Antenna

Lockheed Martin has invented a new type of satellite dish technology with a wide range of use on satellites and ground terminals, including space-based 5G. The Wide Angle ESA Fed Reflector (WAEFR) antenna is a hybrid of a phased array Electronically Steerable Antenna (ESA) and a parabolic dish, and increases coverage area by 190% compared to traditional phased array antennas at a much lower cost.

WAEFR
Lockheed Martin Develops High-Performance, Low Cost Hybrid Antenna For 5G, Radar and Remote Sensing Applications

This antenna is part of a larger research and development investment in 5G.MIL technologies that will optimize and securely connect warfighting platforms to enable Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). Lockheed Martin is uniquely positioned, leveraging commercial best practices, strong partnerships, a broad supply chain and leadership expertise, to bring 5G connectivity and capabilities to the defense community rapidly and affordably.

«We adopted a commercial mindset to quickly mature this technology and discovered there were multiple use cases and applications that could benefit from this new hybrid antenna», said Chris Herring, vice president of advanced program development at Lockheed Martin Space. «5G.MIL technologies like this will bring greater connectivity, faster and more reliable networks, and new data capabilities to support our customers as they navigate the complexity of 21st century battlefields».

The team rapidly prototyped, tested and validated this system in a matter of months compared to what previously took years. WAEFR also features:

  • High performance gain of a dish with the beam agility of an ESA;
  • Low Size Weight and Power (SWAP) common product solution to accommodate any orbital altitude or ground terminal application;
  • Advances in 3D-printing technology and accelerated parts production.

This type of antenna will also benefit the broader communications and ISR communities by providing a more reliable scanning solution compared to gimbaled designs.

«The primary benefit of the WAEFR approach is accomplishing more mission with fewer resources», said Thomas Hand, Ph.D., associate technical fellow at Lockheed Martin Space. «While state of the art ESA solutions can address more demanding link performance, capacity, and data rates using multiple agile analog beams, they do so at a premium».

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.

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.

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.

Logistic Lander

Airbus has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) as one of the two primes for the definition phase of the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3). In this study (phase A/B1), Airbus will develop the concept of a large multi-role logistic lander able to transport up to 1.7 tons of cargo to any location on the lunar surface. EL3 flights are set to begin in the late 2020s, with a cadence of missions over the following decade and more.

Artemis Basecamp Cargo
Artemis Basecamp Cargo

Europe is already contributing to the Global Exploration Roadmap agreed by 14 space agencies around the world, in which Airbus is also playing its part. European participation includes international missions to Mars, substantial elements for crewed space stations – the International Space Station and the Lunar Gateway – and the Orion European Service Module (ESM) which will power Artemis, the next human mission to the lunar surface.

With EL3, ESA and its member states will make a further substantial European contribution to the international effort to establish sustainable exploration of the Moon. EL3 will be designed as a fully independent European lunar surface logistics mission capability, including European launch capability with Ariane 6. ESA anticipates flying three to five EL3 missions over a 10 year time frame.

Surface Science Package with Rover
Surface Science Package with Rover

Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus, said: «We are extremely thrilled to be starting the definition phase of EL3, Europe’s large Moon lander. Last year in Seville, Europe’s space ministers agreed that the European Space Agency should start preparing a vehicle to fly scientific and logistics cargo to the Moon. Airbus is 100% behind this ambition, as it will enable Europe to play a critical role in the next phase of human exploration of the Moon, and will further strengthen ESA’s status as an invaluable partner in the international space community».

Based on a generic plug-and-play landing element, the EL3 could support a range of lunar activities including: logistics support for crewed missions on the Moon (Artemis base camp), scientific missions with rovers and static payloads, or a sample return mission.

To achieve sustained human presence on the Moon, considerable logistical infrastructure will be needed – whether testing critical technologies or prospecting for lunar resources, starting in-situ production and storage of products like propellant, drinking water or oxygen, or even creating a long term settlement.

Sample Return LAE & Rover
Sample Return LAE & Rover

 

EL3’s journey: an independent, all-European solution

EL3, launched on an Ariane 64 from Kourou as a single payload of up to 8.5 tons, can be put on a direct trajectory to the Moon, similar to the trajectory flown by Apollo 50 years ago.

After roughly four days of barbecue-like travel (i.e. slow and constant rotation to optimise the thermal control of the spacecraft), insertion into a Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) will be achieved by EL3’s own propulsion system. Depending on the launch window and the landing site on the Moon, EL3 might remain for up to 14 days in LLO, waiting for the right point in time and space to initiate landing.

European Large Logistic Lander (EL3)
European Large Logistic Lander (EL3)

EL3 Airbus concept will use vision based navigation techniques, first developed by Airbus for the ATV ISS resupply vehicle during the elliptical descent orbit and powered descent to achieve unprecedented landing precision. What’s more, EL3 will be equipped with an autonomous hazard detection and avoidance system. This system will scan the landing site for potential hazards (small rocks, craters, or local slopes) which are too small for identification by remote sensing satellites. Based on this autonomous hazard assessment, the safest landing spot in reach will be identified and the lander will be guided to this location.

The study will be led by the lunar exploration team in Bremen, Airbus’ hub for space exploration activities and will involve more than 20 engineers from five Airbus sites in Germany, France, and the UK. Airbus will be working with six companies and one research institute from seven different countries across Europe.

EL3 European Large Logistic Lander

In Orbit Commissioning

Airbus has received confirmation from ESA of a successful end to the In Orbit Commissioning (IOC) of CHEOPS after the IOC review on 25 March 2020. This critical phase was performed by Airbus in Spain with the support of the Instrument Team (University of Bern), Mission Operation Centre (INTA), Science Operation Centre (University of Geneva) and ESA.

Airbus successfully completes In Orbit Commissioning of CHEOPS

The IOC phase started on 7th January and over the past two and a half months Airbus has conducted the operations to verify the performance of the satellite (platform and instrument), the ground segment and the science package. During this time the main goal was to consolidate the documentation, processes and procedures for use during the operational phase.

ESA recognised the great job done by the Airbus teams and stated there were no issues preventing routine operations from starting and confirmed hand-over of the mission operations from Airbus to INTA and the mission consortium.

Fernando Varela, Head of Space Systems in Spain, said: «The in-orbit delivery of the CHEOPS satellite is the culmination of the Airbus participation in the programme. It is the first European exoplanetary mission and the first ESA mission built by Airbus in Spain. The professionalism of the technical and engineering teams at Airbus was key to this success».

CHEOPS will be controlled by INTA and the mission consortium (University of Geneva and University of Bern). Nevertheless, Airbus is also ready to assist during the operational phase for the whole mission life.

CHEOPS marks the first time that Airbus in Spain has been the prime contractor for the whole mission, from satellite development, through launch, to LEOP and IOC. The entire mission development was completed in record time without delays and met the very tight budget. To do this, Airbus managed a team of 24 companies from 11 European countries, seven of them Spanish, confirming Airbus as the driving force behind the space industry in Spain.

As a reminder, CHEOPS is the first in ESA’s FAST TRACK missions programme whose main characteristics are low cost and a challenging budget. CHEOPS will characterise exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, observing known planets in the size range between Earth and Neptune and precisely measuring their radii to determine their density and understand what they are made of.

Multi-Band,
Multi-Mission

Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace, and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. were awarded a $7.2 million prototype agreement by the Defense Innovation Unit to develop a new Multi-Band, Multi-Mission (MBMM) prototype phased array as part of a broader initiative to modernize the existing Air Force Satellite Control Network and bring new technology faster to warfighters. MBMM enables multiple satellites to simultaneously connect with a single array antenna over multiple frequencies, a significant performance improvement compared to traditional single contact parabolic dishes.

Lockheed Martin, Ball and Kratos team on Advanced Phased Array for Air Force

The Lockheed Martin team is building prototype transmit and receive Electronically Steerable Arrays (ESA). Each array uses Ball’s advanced phased array technologies and supports L- and S-band frequencies initially. Signal processing is accomplished with Kratos’ digital Intermediate Frequency (IF) technology and cloud-enabled quantumRadio.

«MBMM is a smarter way to quickly and affordably scale satellite transmission while lowering long-term maintenance costs for the Air Force», said Maria Demaree, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Mission Solutions. «Today, when a parabolic antenna goes down, it can take days to repair; with MBMM, it will take hours and won’t take the entire site offline – that’s a tremendous advantage».

Extensive industry research comparing the costs of parabolic antennas to phased arrays over time show that while parabolic antennas have a lower upfront cost, they become much more expensive to maintain. Phased arrays avoid the mechanical maintenance and keyhole effects of parabolic antennas while providing graceful degradation and electronic agility in matching aperture performance to constellation demands.

«One electronically steered antenna can replace multiple dishes, enabling better performance, connectivity and affordability», said Rob Freedman, vice president and general manager, Tactical Solutions, Ball Aerospace.

«Software modems deployed in virtual machines gives MBMM an advantage because it is easy to scale signal processing on a much faster timeline than previously», said Frank Backes, senior vice president of Kratos Federal Space.

Future operational MBMM systems will offer new cyber resilience while reducing long-term sustainment costs for the Air Force. MBMM may eventually support multiple orbits from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) and can perform multiple missions at the same time, including Command & Control (C2), launch pad and ascent operations, radar and mission data transmission. The Lockheed Martin/Ball team is one of several teams building prototypes for the government.