ESA selects two companies for commercial cargo delivery to ISS

The International Space Station seen from Space Shuttle Atlantis following undocking
The International Space Station seen from Space Shuttle Atlantis following undocking. (Image credit: NASA)

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected two private companies named Thales Alenia Space and The Exploration Company to develop a cargo service to and from the International Space Station (ISS) in low Earth orbit.

For this reason, ESA has awarded 25 million euros in funding to each of the companies to support them in developing the cargo service.

The above two companies are asked to demonstrate their cargo service by 2028.

Currently, the European Space Agency depends on its international partners like NASA and Roscosmos to carry crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

This new initiative will therefore make the European Space Agency (ESA) independent and enable ESA to access low Earth orbit even after the retirement of the International Space Station (ISS), when commercial space stations like Starlab will be developed.

Related article: SpaceX’s Starship to launch Starlab commercial space station in late 2020s

However, the initiative of cargo delivery to and from the space station is just the beginning to strengthen European industry. Once this initiative is successful, the European Space Agency (ESA) will award a contract to European private companies to develop a crew transportation system.

NASA had started this kind of initiative a long ago. NASA had awarded several US private companies to carry crew and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) cost-effectively through its Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Currently, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and a few other American companies are providing this service for NASA.

Selected companies and their cargo vehicles

A demonstration of The Exploration Company's cargo delivery Nyx vehicle
A demonstration of The Exploration Company’s cargo delivery Nyx vehicle. (Image credit: The Exploration Company)

The Exploration Company, a French-German spacecraft manufacturer, has been developing its Nyx capsule for commercial cargo delivery to and from the International Space Station. The company aims to demonstrate the first flight of its Nyx capsule this summer. The Nyx capsule is designed to carry cargo as well as crew. 

A demonstration of the cargo vehicle of Thales Alenia Space
A demonstration of the cargo vehicle of Thales Alenia Space. (Image credit: Thales Alenia Space)

Thales Alenia Space, a French-Italian company, is one of the largest spacecraft manufacturers in Europe. The company had developed numerous modules of the International Space Station for the European Space Agency (ESA).

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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