Learning to live on the moon

With the aim of laying the foundation for a human presence on the moon, Thales Alenia Space has just signed a contract with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) for the feasibility study of 16 design ideas. This initiative is part of a strategic alliance the Italian agency has with NASA as part of the Artemis Moon exploration program, which includes both lunar orbit and the lunar surface.

The Artemis program is being developed in three phases: Artemis 1 consists of an unmanned flight to the moon to test the launch system and the Orion capsule. Artemis 2 is Orion’s first manned flight; and finally, Artemis 3 will aim to land the astronauts on the moon in 2024. This program aims to install perennial structures on the moon and in its orbit in order to continue human exploration of the lunar surface and conduct various scientific studies there. The Lunar Gateway Station is the central element of this program as it will serve as an outpost for astronauts on their journey to the moon and at the same time as a scientific research laboratory and support for the use of future exploratory missions of our satellite programs. from here until the end of this decade, of course.

The results of the study could help strengthen Italian participation in the lunar program and even develop a sustainable lunar economy.

His special focus will be on the shelter, ie a habitable module on the lunar surface that acts as pressure protection for astronauts in an emergency and as the first component of human exploration activities on the lunar surface. A telecommunications system is also being studied to facilitate the connection between the lunar base, the Lunar Gateway orbital station, and Earth.

The feasibility study will also include several printing modules for the lunar surface, including a scientific research laboratory and residence module for astronauts, as well as printing elements for the Lunar Gateway station, such as a new generation glass dome used to observe the moon. Earth and space. It is also exploring transportation solutions that make it easier for astronauts to explore the lunar surface and move cargo to the gateway and the moon, including an autonomous rver for the collection and transportation of raw materials. After all, the future lunar base must have a data center that can process a large amount of information and have the computing power required for scientific research, as well as a power generation and distribution facility.

As the main contractor for the study, Thales Alenia Space will lead an industrial team of top Italian companies, some of which are not part of the traditional space sector: AIKO, ALTEC, ARGOTEC, DESIGN GANG, ENEL, FONDAZIONE AMALDI, LEONARDO, MERLO, NANORACKS EUROPE, PIECO, PRIMA ADDITIVE, QASCOM, STELLANTIS, TELESPAZIO and VALUE PARTNER.

Massimo Comparini, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in Italy, stated: Thales Alenia Space is coordinating companies from different fields in a global study that predefines the essential elements for exploration and life on the moon in line with the strategic vision of the Italian space agency. For Thales Alenia Space, innovation is a crucial element in maintaining and strengthening our competitiveness in the face of new challenges. In this sense, this contract clearly shows that the development of state-of-the-art technologies can create promising synergies and opportunities for cooperation between a large number of areas of activity.

Thales Alenia Space’s participation in the Artemis program has great strategic value for the company. After activities in low terrestrial orbit and lunar orbit, the development of modules for the lunar surface is a new challenge that opens the doors to new commercial and intergovernmental alliances for projects that will continue for the next thirty years.

Lunar Gateway Station

The Lunar Gateway Station is one of the pillars of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to establish a permanent post for the exploration of the moon and translunar space. The project is carried out within the framework of an international cooperation agreement that has so far been signed by NASA (USA) and ESA (Europe). This approximately 40-ton station is automatically assembled piece by piece in an NRHO orbit (Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit) around the moon. It mainly comprises habitat modules for astronauts, modules for power supply and propulsion, for logistics and communication with earth and moon, a robotic arm and a docking port. Although it is not permanently manned, it can accommodate up to four astronauts at the same time for a period of one to three months. The experience gained on and around the moon will help NASA prepare for the first manned voyages to Mars between now and 2030. The Lunar Gateway Station will therefore be a transcendental step in this process.

The role of Thales Alenia Space in the lunar challenge

Thales Alenia Space, who was already responsible for the thermomechanical systems of the European Service Module (ESM) of the Orion spacecraft, is now also playing a leading role in the contribution of the European Space Agency (ESA) to the lunar station Gateway the I-HAB and ESPRIT Modules. The company is also participating in NASA’s HLS (Human Landing System) within the consortium led by Dynetics, which was recently selected by the North American agency, as well as in the VIPER program, also NASA has to move to the south pole of the moon Looking for water. On the other hand, Thales Alenia Space will develop the HALO (Habitation And Logistics Outpost) print module for Northrop Grumman, one of the first two components of the Lunar Gateway Station, which is scheduled to start in late 2023. The first phase of welding this module was recently carried out at the Thales Alenia space plant in Turn, Italy.

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