For decades, Airbus Defence and Space has been at the very heart of space exploration, developing the technology that allows mankind to send spacecraft to planets, moons and comets both close to the sun and millions of kilometres away – allowing us to learn more about the universe we live in and helping to make it truly our home.
Missions that began in our clean rooms
Airbus clean rooms served as a starting point for several missions, including: Mars Express, the first European Mars exploration mission – for which Airbus Defence and Space designed and built the satellite; and Gaia, designed and built by Airbus for the European Space Agency (ESA) to conduct a census of a billion stars and other astronomical phenomena in our galaxy to help scientists understand stellar evolution and star formation, providing insights into the Milky Way origin.
Defence and Space engineers also designed and built the spacecraft and instruments for LISA Pathfinder, the technology demonstrator mission aiming to prove key elements of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. BepiColombo is Europe's first mission to Mercury, for which Airbus is responsible for the systems design and building three of the four elements: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, Mercury Transfer Module and Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter Sunshield and Interface Structure.
Under its Artemis programme, NASA is planning to once again land astronauts on the Moon. And for the first time ever, NASA has entrusted a non-US company to build a mission-critical element for an American Human Spaceflight Mission: When the new Orion spacecraft sets course for the Earth’s satellite, it relies on Airbus technology for essential functions – from the supply of air and water to the propulsion, power and thermal control – all provided by the Orion European Service Module (ESM), developed by Airbus under an ESA contract.
Future missions under development
Airbus continues active work on several space exploration projects, such as: developing and building ESA’s JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) spacecraft; leading the teams designing and building the Solar Orbiter that will research how the Sun creates the heliosphere. For the ExoMars mission – a joint project by the European and Russian space agencies (ESA and Roscosmos) to examine the geological environment and search for life on Mars – Airbus Defence and Space is developing the rover (a robotic vehicle).
To support highly precise mission preparations, Airbus developed image simulation software SurRender for all development phases – from preliminary sizing and feasibility studies to validation and testing. The software is especially useful for the development and testing of vision-based navigation techniques.