BREMEN, Germany — The European Space Agency is seeking to create a more sustainable path for space, starting with developing commercial partnerships in lunar exploration.
A panel discussion titled “Understanding the move towards business partnerships in Europe’s developing lunar economy,” at the Space Tech Expo in Bremen, Germany, on Nov. 16 began just as the recent launch Mission Artemis 1 began his trans-lunar injection burn.
Bernhard Hufenbach, head of the commercialization and innovation team at ESA, said his team had a very simple vision “to expand the economy in space to increase the benefits of space exploration”. .
“We’re trying to drive customer demand for services and then helping them provide the business cases and trying to attract and help the industry attract third-party funding…So instead of buy spacecraft hardware, we buy services.”
One of these initiatives concerns the establishment of support services for lunar exploration. ESA will purchase communications services and fly payloads on Lunar Pathfinder, a small communications satellite that ESA and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) plan to launch in 2024.
Commercial Lunar Mission Support Services (CLMSS) are planned to provide vital infrastructure for future lunar exploration and, according to ESA, strategically position European capabilities. This and other insiders will need broader work to ensure consistency, adaptability, and applicability.
“We have to make sure that the service we offer is compatible. There’s no point in having a service from the United States and a service from Japan and a service from China or someone not working together,” said Andrew Haslehurst, Chief Technology Officer at SSTL.
“So that’s how we’re working as a community to make sure we can build on this service together.” Ensure sustained long-term exploration growth.
ESA is working on its own Argonaut, or European Large Logistics Lander. But before that, the agency plans to pay for commercial delivery services from smaller lander providers.
Laura Todd, head of future space exploration programs at Airbus Defense and Space, said the company is looking at sustainability, modularity, scalability and lower core costs, as well as smaller companies to fill in the gaps. . There are, however, difficulties ahead.
“We are at this point of transition from institutional funding, or government funding, to private funding. And I think another difficulty that we have in space exploration is, as we all know, there’s a market there, but we just don’t know when, especially when you look at the lunar economy, when you look at resources,” Todd said.
Bernard Foing, executive director of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG), also noted that knowledge gaps need to be filled in order to build a lunar economy.
Hufenbach said there are intense incubation programs that are spread across Europe, as well as the so-called ESA program accelerators. What’s possible could come down to this week’s decisions ESA Ministerial Meeting.
“If you look at all the programs that are present at the ministers’ meeting, each program has an element related to commercialization supporting startups supporting the industry initiative,” Hufenbach said.
“Through commercialization, we not only increase the economic footprint of our program, we believe we provide more competition, we can speed up the exploration process. And if it works, ESA is better valued for the same investment. .
The ministerial meeting is considered crucial, during which ESA will ask for a 25% increase over 2019 funding. The panel, overall, agreed on the future value of European investments in the space.
“I fundamentally believe that it’s only through space exploration that we move toward cutting-edge technologies that will address the current challenges on earth today,” Todd said.