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Space infrastructure

Space infrastructure

Airbus Defence and Space plays a significant role in the major successes associated with European orbital systems, customers and partners worldwide rely on our experience and innovative spirit.

Today, Airbus Defence and Space works on a number of exciting space projects, including Orion ESMthe ISS' Columbus moduleBartolomeo and ATV. A global competence centre for all human spaceflight-related activities, our additional competences include astronaut training, life support systems for Earth and space, space robotics, space exploration programmes and, last but not least, sounding rockets for microgravity experiments.

International Space Station ISS

Endeavour Meets ISS

The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the most ambitious scientific and technical projects ever undertaken in Human Space Flight. It is an unprecedented international endeavour, with 10 European countries joining the United States, Japan, Canada and Russia. 

Airbus is leading the European contribution to this project and was selected by ESA as prime contractor for two key elements: Columbus, a multifunction space laboratory, and the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) supply vessels that performed 5 successful missions to the ISS. In addition, Airbus is part of ESA's industrial operator team for the operation and utilisation of the European elements of the ISS. Airbus provides also - among others - control systems with fault tolerant computers and wireless communication systems for the ISS that astronauts use during their experiments.

Flying Over Columbus

The Columbus laboratory has been in orbit since February 2008. With its own life support system it provides a unique environment and multipurpose research opportunities in microgravity. 

Astronaut-researchers on board the ISS are carrying out experiments covering material science, medicine, pharmaceuticals, human physiology, biology, Earth observation, fluid physics and astronomy.

Orion European Service Module

Orion, the next-generation NASA's Spacecraft designed for manned space exploration missions of destinations beyond low Earth orbit (asteroids, the Moon, Mars), will be powered by a European Service Module (ESM) developed and built by Airbus Defence and Space. This ESM will power the Orion capsule and its crew deeper into space than ever before.

Learn more about Orion ESM through Orion´s blog

#1 European supplier
for a NASA spacecraft
1st uncrewed flight
planned for 2018 
Up to 4 astronauts
can be sent to space

Drawing on their experience with the International Space Station (ISS), they know by heart what life support systems need to look like. NASA cannot fly without us, and we cannot fly without them

Oliver Juckenhoefel, Airbus Defence and Space

Orion European Service Module for NASA's spacecraft


Columbus program

Columbus is a pressurized laboratory with its own independent life support system. It's one of the primary European contributions to the International Space Station (ISS) that was built and is being operated by Airbus Defence and Space. Astronaut-researchers on-board the ISS are currently carrying out a number of experiments, covering material science, medicinei, pharmaceuticals, human physiology, biology, Earth observation, fluid physics and astronomy.

Successful launch
in February 2008
41 subcontractors
A 14 countries

Our success with Columbus is not only a great testament to the wholeAirbus Defence and Space team but also cements our reputation as a true global player in the field of human space travel

Helmut Luttmann, Airbus Defence and Space


Named after the younger brother of Christopher Columbus, the Bartolomeo platform is attached to the European Columbus Module and operated by Airbus Defence and Space. This All-in-One Mission Service comprises all mission elements into one commercial contract (mission preparation, payload launch, payload on-orbit installation, commissioning, operation, payload data processing and delivery), in order to provide the customer a reliable integrated mission solution. The offer includes:

  • Launch opportunities are available on every servicing mission to the ISS, payloads can be launched pressurized or unpressurized...
  • Easy mission preparation: Payload sizes, interfaces, preparation steps and integration processes largely standardized
  • Highly Cost-Efficient: customers can save significantly compared to traditional mission cost. This makes Bartolomeo ideal for R&D missions e.g. technology démonstrations
A 10-year experience
in integrating/operating payloads
Only 12 months
of lead time
20 years of experience
in cargo transportation/operation

Our 'ISS balcony' provides a highly cost-and-time-efficient means to perform a space mission in LEO or to test and validate new technology in orbit

Bart Reijnen, Airbus Defence and Space

Automated transfer vehicle (ATV)

The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) dubbed the ISS’s lifeline to Earth, ferried propellants, food, water and equipment to the ISS between 2008 and 2015.

Once docked, an ATV used its own engines to:

  • Correct the station’s orbit
  • Compensate for a regular loss of altitude due to drag
  • Contribute to collision and debris avoidance

At the end of a mission, the ATV was filled with waste, de-docked and burned up as it headed back into the Earth's atmosphere. The ground-breaking innovations and learnings obtained during the ATV development and missions now serve as a fundamental basis for the development of the Orion ESM.

ATV - the story of success



Endeavour Meets ISS    
Flying Over Columbus    
Columbus Infographic    
Orion ESM - Mankind on the way to the Moon and beyond    
Orion ESM - Journey around the Moon    
Project CIMON Promo video clean      
Project CIMON      
The New Journey into Space      

Earth observation

Telecommuni- cations Satellites

Human spaceflight


Satellite navigation

Space exploration

Space Data Highway

Space Equipment

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