EROSS robotics project wins 2021 Etoiles de l’Europe award
At the 9th annual awards ceremony for Etoiles de l’Europe* (Stars of Europe), held today in Paris and attended by French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Frédérique Vidal, the EROSS project**, coordinated by Thales Alenia Space within the scope of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research program, received an award.
Led by Thales Alenia Space, in cooperation with ten European partners, the European Robotic Orbital Support Services (EROSS) project aims to develop the technology building blocks for space vehicles designed for on-orbit servicing missions. These highly versatile vehicles will be tasked with carrying out a variety of missions in orbit, including inspection of a target, robotic manipulation, extending satellite service life, in-orbit refueling, deorbiting space debris and much more.
Frédérique Vidal and Elisabeth Claverie de Saint Martin, Chairman and CEO of Cirad and chair of this year’s jury, presented the award for EROSS to Vincent Dubanchet, Thales Alenia Space team leader for the project. Thales Alenia Space had already won the 2019 Etoiles de l’Europe award for another H2020 project, I3DS (Integrated 3D Sensors), which aimed to develop a suite of sensors for robotic missions involving a rendezvous in space with another vehicle or object.
This project was the first phase in the SRC (Strategic Research Cluster) action plan concerning spaceborne robotic technologies, set up by the European Union within the scope of the Horizon 2020 program. EROSS is part of the second phase. These two projects have already led to ground demonstrators, a first step designed to show the feasibility of the intended applications, especially EROSS, which has already validated all the technologies required for in-orbit maintenance operations.
The third and last phase of the SRC, which includes the EROSS+ project coordinated by Thales Alenia Space, will now entail preparations for the in-orbit demonstration of this new type of mission, through the preliminary design stage. EROSS+ is a direct follow-on to EROSS, and aims to develop a European on-orbit servicing solution. The project kicked off in February 2021 and will last for 24 months.
These new space vehicles will signal a paradigm shift in space as we know it: it will enable advanced robotic operations in space, with a transition from a static to a dynamic space environment where space systems can evolve in space. On-Orbit Servicing, a field in which Thales Alenia Space is one of the pioneers, will provide a new approach to accessing space. With humanity planning to establish permanent bases on the Moon, for instance, these technologies will deliver real benefits for many different missions, including transport, orbital rendezvous, and the assembly of different components in space.
* The annual Étoiles de l’Europe awards spotlight French teams that have chosen a European context to develop their research and foster innovation. The award recognizes the coordinators of European research and innovation projects, led by a French entity.
** For more information on the EROSS project