OHB and Thales Alenia Space Sign Contract for ESPRIT Module for Lunar Gateway

Artist’s impression of the Lunar Gateway. (Credit: TAS – E. Briot)

BREMEN, Germany, May 25, 2021 (OHB Systems PR) — OHB System AG, a subsidiary of the space and technology group OHB SE, and Thales Alenia Space, the main contractor for the program, have taken another step towards realizing the ESPRIT module (European System Providing Refueling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications ) for the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway. As part of a subcontract, OHB will be responsible for the pressureless structure and the thermal system of the ESPRIT module until it is ready for flight. As an international premiere, OHB will also develop a system for refueling the electric drive system of the Lunar Gateway with xenon. The subcontract is worth EUR 58 million.

ESPRIT is implemented on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) and consists of two infrastructure elements: The first element, the so-called refueller module, supplies the gateway with fuel for position control and allows refueling with xenon. In addition, it has a tunnel segment with windows that gives the astronauts a view of the moon, earth, and the gateway itself. The second element, called the Halo Lunar Communication System, is used for telecommunication with the moon and enables a high-speed connection to be established with up to two receivers on the lunar surface. The gateway is a joint project of the international ISS partners Europe, USA, Japan and Canada and is intended to serve as a base camp for missions to the lunar surface as well as Mars and other distant destinations. It is a modular platform that can orbit the moon in different orbits, giving access to the entire surface.

World first from OHB

“The gateway will not only usher in a new era in manned space travel, it will also demonstrate important technologies and thus lay the foundation for many more ambitious missions in the solar system,” says Mathias Rohrbeck, Project Chief Engineer in the ESPRIT project at OHB System AG. “If we are successful in this project, we will be the first to refuel xenon in space. With this new technology, we are taking a decisive step towards the sustainability of such infrastructures in space.”

ESPRIT is scheduled to start in 2027

The ESPRIT module is currently scheduled to start in 2027. The various modules of the gateway, which are being developed by European, American, Japanese and Canadian partners, are to be brought into lunar orbit one after the other and then put together between 2024 and 2028. As part of NASA’s ARTEMIS program , astronauts are to travel with the Orion spaceship to the new lunar outpost and carry out the next lunar landing mission from there. “With an estimated minimum lifespan of 15 years, the gateway will provide a long-term basis for astronautical exploration of the moon and beyond,” sums up Mathias Rohrbeck.