ESA contracts Phase 1 development of ISS cargo-return missions with The Exploration Co & Thales Alenia Space Italy

by Peter B. de Selding

PARIS — The 22-nation European Space Agency (ESA) contracted with startup orbital cargo-supply startup The Exploration Company and Thales Alenia Space Italy to design separate cargo vehicles to visit future commercial space stations and return freight, with an eventual capacity to carry astronauts.

The two two-year contracts, each valued at 25 million euros ($27 million), are expected to be supplemented in late 2025 by a much larger ESA commitment to be the anchor customer for both companies’ initial missions, investment that should permit final development . . .

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