Exploring the dark universe - successful launch for Euclid probe

The Euclid spacecraft successfully launched from Kennedy Space Center in early July 2023. The European Space Agency (ESA) Euclid mission, equipped with an Airbus telescope, will study dark energy and dark matter in space.
 

A high-precision telescope with a diameter of 1.2 meters and a payload module designed and built by Airbus will allow Euclid to explore the composition and evolution of the dark universe, including the role of dark matter and dark energy.
 

Measuring a billion galaxies

Built by Thales Alenia Space for ESA, Euclid will cover more than a third of the entire sky over the next six years, measuring the shapes and distances of more than a billion galaxies.

Euclid is a space mission of international scope that will help mankind understand the structure and evolution of the universe. It is the largest telescope with the highest optical performance ever developed and integrated by Airbus.

The telescope, which is made entirely of silicon carbide, has to operate in extremely cold conditions of -170 °C. It builds on Airbus' world-leading expertise in silicon carbide technology for space, already proven in orbit on ESA's Herschel and Gaia missions.

Euclid TVAC

The Airbus-built Telescope for ESA’s EUCLID mission being readied for a thermal vacuum test
- Copyright Airbus -

Dark matter makes universe expand faster

Euclid will create a map of the large-scale structure of the universe and explore how the universe has expanded and how structures have formed throughout cosmic history to learn more about the role of gravity and dark energy.

Euclid will map the distribution of dark matter throughout the Universe with unprecedented accuracy. Dark matter cannot be detected directly, but astronomers know it is there because its gravity affects the matter they can see. Dark energy is a mysterious force that seems to be making the universe expand faster.

 

Status: July 2023

A world first: three European service modules in Bremen

For the first time, three European service modules (ESM) for lunar missions are being manufactured in parallel in the Airbus cleanrooms in Bremen.

It is the first time that NASA, with Airbus, has chosen a non-US prime contractor to build an essential element for a US human spaceflight mission. The integration of ESM-3 is almost complete, ESM-4 is in full swing, and the newly arrived ESM-5 structure is now the focus of the first steps of integration. Each ESM requires the integration of more than 22,000 elements.
 

Farther into space than ever before

"Together with the European Space Agency, Airbus is delivering half of the spacecraft that will take humans back to the moon – taking them farther than ever before and, of course, returning safely to Earth," said Marc Steckling, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus.

“We have already delivered the first two ESMs, with ESM-2 currently being integrated into Orion at Kennedy Space Center. With the arrival of the ESM-4 structure last summer and the ESM-5 structure just before Christmas, we have now started series production. Our clean rooms have been optimized to accommodate three ESMs at the same time. We are on track to meet NASA's requirement to deliver one ESM per year going forward."

ESM 3 integration-Moon day

ESM-3 under final integration in the cleanroom at Airbus in Bremen - ©Airbus2023

Crucial part of the Orion spacecraft

The ESM is a critical element of NASA's astronautical Orion spacecraft as it is the spacecraft's main propulsion system while providing orbital manoeuvring and position control.

In 2022, the first Artemis mission took place with the first Orion spacecraft powered by the ESM-1. The spacecraft travelled more than 2 million kilometres, experienced temperatures in excess of 200°C and flew at a top speed of 40,000 km/h (or 11 km/s). All systems have been tested and worked well and reliably, some even better than expected.

ESM-2 was delivered to Florida in October 2021. It is now being tested and integrated at the Kennedy Space Centre. It will be part of the astronaut Artemis II mission in 2024, which will fly the first astronauts around the moon and back to Earth since 1972. ESM-3 will power the Artemis III mission. The ESM-4 structure arrived at the Airbus clean room in Bremen in June 2022 and is currently being integrated. Work is already underway on the recently arrived ESM-5 structure.
 

Aim: space station in lunar orbit

ESM 4, 5 and 6 will be deployed on the Artemis IV to VI missions, the first two of which are part of Europe's contribution to the International Gateway, a space station to be built in lunar orbit. The aim of ESA and NASA is to build a lunar ecosystem (lunar gateway) to better understand and explore the moon and to prepare longer-term manned missions to Mars.

 

Status: Mar 2023

Satellite navigation saves lives

Milestone reached: Airbus continues to improve the European Extension System for Satellite Navigation (EGNOS). EGNOS secures life every day in aviation and numerous other areas of application.

The development of the European extension system for satellite navigation is progressing. EGNOS V3 passed the critical design review in December 2022. This important milestone is the last planning check before implementation.

EGNOS V3 stands for the third generation of the "European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service". This upgrade will further enhance the existing life protection features and also offer new applications.
 

Airbus entrusted with further development of EGNOS

In 2018, the European Space Agency ESA commissioned Airbus to further develop EGNOS. EGNOS improves the accuracy of satellite navigation systems such as the European Galileo or the US GPS and at the same time ensures the reliability of the data.

As a result, EGNOS provides indispensable navigation services in almost all of Europe – in the air, at sea and on land. Airplanes, for example, need safe, reliable and accurate take-off and landing data that goes beyond standard navigation systems. EGNOS is also used extensively in shipping, rail traffic and agriculture.

navigation EGNOS

EGNOS V3 to support safety-critical aircraft, maritime and land applications

Galileo is also being further developed

EGNOS V3 is to be put into service in several stages between 2023 and 2025 in order to make the European system even more accurate, more robust and more available. Protection against cyber attacks is also improved.

In addition to EGNOS, Airbus is also developing the second generation of satellites for the European navigation system Galileo. The first six satellites of the next generation are currently being manufactured in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance.

 

Status: Feb 2023

Artemis I Mission Successful

Mission accomplished: After over 10 years in the making, the 25-day long uncrewed Artemis I mission successfully came to an end on Sunday, 11 December 2022. The European Service Module (ESM) on board, built by Airbus in Bremen, made it safely around the Moon and home, after all tasks were successfully completed.

An important step in NASA’s ambitious plan to bring people back to the Moon and establish the first long-term presence on the Moon is completed. The successful return of the Orion space capsule to Earth also marks an important accomplishment for the Airbus-build European Service Module, which drives, steers and supplies Orion. 
 

Back to the Moon – with German Technology 

For the first time ever, NASA entrusts a non-US company to build a mission critical element for an American human spaceflight mission. On behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus will build a total of six European Service Modules for Artemis missions I-VI. After extensive testing, ESM-1 was handed over to NASA at the end of 2020. It was christened “Bremen”, after the European competence centre for manned space flight and space robotics where Airbus builds central components of the ESM modules.

The Artemis I mission launched on 16 November 2022, and successfully came to an end on 11 December 2022, after nearly a month in space. As planned, the European Service Module burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere in a controlled manner, about 40 minutes before the crew capsule landed in the Pacific Ocean. It was a bittersweet moment for the team, who were grateful for the success of the ESM-1, but simultaneously sad to see the hard work go up in flames.

The end of the Artemis I mission marks the beginning of a new era of space travel. The successors, Artemis II and Artemis III will bring people to the Moon for the first time in decades, among which the first woman to land on the Moon. The successive ESMs for future missions will be there to provide humans onboard with what they need to stay alive, like water, oxygen, and the right temperature. 

Airbus already delivered ESM-2 in October 2021, which will be crucial to the Artemis II mission in 2024. The experiences of the Artemis missions pave the way for a potential ESA mission to the moon that would see the first Europeans set foot on the Moon. 

Orion

More than 1m Hours to get to Space  

Thousands of Airbus employees have already spent more than 1 million working hours on the European Service Modules. Each consists of 22.000 parts, 33 thrusters, and 12 km of cables. The ESM was tested for years before the mission and now during the mission, and performed even better than previously expected. The spacecraft travelled more than 2 million kilometres and was exposed to temperatures of +-200 °C, and flew at a maximum speed of 40.000 km/h.

 

Status: Jan 2023

Powering the return to the Moon

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