Turning science fiction into reality: OHB and Thales Alenia Space sign contract for refuelling system for Lunar Gateway

Bremen, 25 May 2021. OHB System AG, a subsidiary of the European space and technology group OHB SE, and Thales Alenia Space, prime contractor for the programme, have now taken a further step in the realisation of the ESPRIT module (European System Providing Refuelling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications) for the new Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway. Under a subcontract, OHB will be responsible for the unpressurised structure as well as the thermal subsystem of the ESPRIT module up to flight readiness. As an international first, OHB will be developing a system for refuelling the electrical propulsion system of the Lunar Gateway with xenon. The subcontract is valued at EUR 58 million.

Executed on behalf of the European Space Agency ESA, ESPRIT is composed of two infrastructural elements: The Refueller Module, which provides the Gateway with fuel for manoeuvring and position control together with a refuelling system and a tunnel segment with windows offering astronauts a view of the Moon, the Earth and the Gateway itself, and the Halo Lunar Communication System, which will enable high-speed telecommunications with up to two elements on the lunar surface. A joint project of the international ISS partners Europe, United States, Japan and Canada, the Gateway will serve as a base camp for missions to the lunar surface as well as Mars and other distant targets. It is a modular platform that can travel around the moon on different orbits and thus provide access to the entire surface.

World first made by OHB

“The Gateway will not only usher in a new era of human spaceflight but also demonstrate important technologies, thus laying the foundations for many more ambitious missions in the solar system,” says Mathias Rohrbeck, Project Chief Engineer responsible for ESPRIT at OHB System AG. “If we are successful, we will be the first to perform xenon refuelling in space. With this new technology, we are taking a decisive step towards the sustainability of such space architectures.”

ESPRIT scheduled for launch in 2027

The launch of the ESPRIT module is currently planned for 2027. The various modules of the Gateway, which are being developed by European, American, Japanese, and Canadian partners, are to be placed in a lunar orbit one by one, after which they will be joined together between 2024 and 2028. As part of the NASA ARTEMIS programme, astronauts will use the Orion spacecraft to travel to the new lunar outpost, where they will be able to execute the lunar landing mission. “With an estimated minimum lifetime of 15 years, the gateway will provide a long-term basis for human exploration of the Moon and beyond,” Mathias Rohrbeck sums up.