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.
Another programme for which Airbus Defence and Space engineers have designed and built the spacecraft and instruments is 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.
Airbus continues active work on several space exploration projects, such as: developing and building JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) spacecraft for the European Space Agency, which will study Jupiter and its icy moons in the hope of determining whether life is possible on these dwarf planets; leading the teams designing and building the Solar Orbiter that will research how the Sun creates the heliosphere, the bubble-like region of space dominated by the solar wind. 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).
Orion is NASA’s next spacecraft to send humans into space, beyond the Moon to asteroids and even Mars. The European Service Module (ESM) – for which Airbus is the prime contractor for the development and manufacturing – is Europe’s contribution to the Orion spaceship. The module provides propulsion, power, water, oxygen and nitrogen as well as keeps the spacecraft at the right temperature and on course.
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.