Airbus, ESA to Launch Commercial External Space Station Platform

International Space Station (Credit: NASA)
International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

Bartolomeo will provide fast, cost-efficient and reliable access to the ISS for private and institutional users on commercial terms
Bartolomeo is to be attached to the European Colombus laboratory in 2018

TOULOUSE, France (Airbus Defence and Space PR) — Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, and the European Space Agency (ESA), agreed today to start a joint pilot project phase to prepare the operation and utilization of a new external payload platform on the European International Space Station (ISS) laboratory Columbus. ESA and Airbus Defence and Space signed the corresponding Memorandum of Understanding on June 2, 2016 at the ILA Airshow in Berlin (Germany).

The Bartolomeo platform is envisioned to be embedded into an end-to-end service designed to provide fast, cost-efficient and reliable access to the ISS for private and institutional users on commercial terms. The Bartolomeo all-in-one payload mission service is aimed at customers from areas including Earth observation, technology demonstrators, astro- and heliophysics, material science and new space flight applications.

“With Bartolomeo, we will provide a sustained commercial external payload hosting service on the ISS”, said François Auque, Head of Space Systems. “With this infrastructure, we intend to enlarge the user community, and offer them a broader range of solutions that meet their needs and that can be deployed rapidly.”

“Commercial partnership will play a growing role in the exciting ESA vision for space exploration”, said David Parker, ESA Director for Human and Robotic Exploration. “ESA intends to stimulate private sector engagement in space exploration and foster innovative and inspiring approaches for future ESA missions. Enhancing private sector capabilities and demand for ISS utilisation will open perspectives for commercial approaches for exploitation ISS and post-ISS infrastructures.”

This new space facility, named “Bartolomeo” after the younger brother of Christopher Columbus, will be attached to the outside of the European “Columbus” laboratory module in 2018, providing access to power and data resources for customer payloads.

With almost 20 years of experience in the field of unpressurized cargo transportation and operation, this initiative strengthens Airbus Defence and Space’s position as a provider of human spaceflight-related system solutions and end-to-end payload operation services.

About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space, a division of Airbus Group, is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise and the second largest space business worldwide. Its activities include space, military aircraft and related systems and services. It employs more than 38,000 people and in 2015 generated revenues of over 13 billion Euros.

  • windbourne

    That’s interesting.
    Why now?

  • I have no special insight, but I bet it has a lot to do with a European answer to NanoRacks. Between Europeans having an extra ITAR barrier and their desire to get in on game too, this makes sense. Heck, we’re seeing competition now in even the lowest level of commercial space applications. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? 🙂

  • P.K. Sink

    Yeah, but at the speed that ESA moves, they may end up putting this on the Bigelow Station. But I guess this means that they’re going to support ISS until 2024 anyway. I believe that they are the last holdouts.

  • Yeah, I was kinda reading that into it (why invest in something that you won’t be part of?). Which is doubly encouraging when you consider Europe’s ability to reuse their stuff: Spacelab became ISS segments, became ATV, became Cygnus cargo module, became Orion SM. If they are building this capability, it’s likely it will be around a LONG time, so Bigelow CAN count on them as partner for their LEO station.

    Having NanoRacks serving one market, and Airbus/ESA serving another is only good in my mind.

  • P.K. Sink

    Those are all good thoughts. Along those same lines…Shuttle gave us ISS. ISS is giving us Commercial Space. And Commercial Space (with NASA’s most excellent partnership) will give us unlimited access to the Solar System.

  • Vladislaw

    would this be to compete against the platform that JAXA put up on their lab?