At the beginning of a lunar economy

The giant SLS launcher has been relocated to its launch pad in Florida for final testing before its first flight this summer and sending an Orion capsule to the moon. The Artemis program, which must bring astronauts to the surface of our natural satellites, is on the right track. This time, it will no longer be a short tour under the American flag alone, as with Apollo, but a long-term resource in collaboration with NASA’s traditional allies. For Europe, therefore, it represents a new market, with new strategic niches to occupy transportation supplies, telecommunications, accommodation for astronauts, navigation and even all the electronic subsystems adapted to this particular adversity.

Towards a lunar economy

The old continent already has champions in this particular area who have to play their cards to win. The Thales Alenia space is already well-established, as all the pressurized modules for the future gateway station are already being made and manufactured at its Turin factory. “We will provide an ecosystem for astronauts to live, work and rest in a harsh environment. This is a little more than a series of pressure vessels. “, Deputy General Manager of Thales Alenia Space has reassured Massimo Claudio Companini. With the presence of private orbital stations around the earth, he saw similar movements around and on the surface of the moon as astronauts return. A lunar economy will appear quickly, although at first it will be mainly funded by government customers.

The European Space Agency, already responsible for the two gateway modules, has also looked at the telecommunications and navigation requirements of missions in the Martian environment and is proposing a dedicated constellation around the moon, around the moon, on a public basis – a personal partnership. “If lunar orbits and landers do not need to carry all the systems needed to navigate them and connect them to Earth, away from Earth, their size can be optimized.”, Explained Élodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at the European Space Agency (ESA). At the price of a kilogram sent to the moon, saving would be fast enough. “There are 250 missions planned, which could benefit from this and they represent an investment of over 1.5 1.5 billion.”Elodie Viau, who sees the beginning of a lunar economy in it.

Develop sustainable systems

At Sodern, a world leader in navigation systems and especially star finders, we are interested in the proximity operation market: meeting place, formation flight or mooring, which will require sensors for which the equipment maker French has already demonstrated its skills in ATV program during which European 20-ton cargo. The ships made the moorings so soft that they were within identifiable limits and with sub-centimeter accuracy. Southern will also create cameras responsible for retrieving Martian specimens through ERO probes around Mars.

For Frank Poirier, CEO of Sodern and representative of space equipment manufacturers at Cospace, programs for lunar logistics need to think differently:“So far, with the exception of the International Space Station, we have always worked with consumer goods. Far from the earth, we need to develop more sustainable systems.. This will mean more elasticity, firmness and simplicity, as well as a certain generosity in the products. What will be valid around the moon will be more around Mars but may remain “Spin off” In lower orbit, especially with troubleshooting and in-orbit services.

The experience gained by European sub-contractors, such as Erems, an electronics supplier on numerous scientific and manned missions over four decades, will be important, as Johan Ballet, director of commercial development at the Toulouse equipment manufacturer, reminds us. “The environment around the moon is not worse than on Earth, where it can already be very aggressive.”The main drawback, he emphasizes, is the distance, which makes any intervention more difficult, hence the importance of rock-solid reliability.