Aerospace & Defence

The Exploration Company secures contract from ESA

23rd May 2024
Harry Fowle

The Exploration Company has announced it has secured the European Space Agency as an anchor client - via a new contract secured in a competitive tender process - to develop a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Cargo Return Service.

The LEO Cargo Return Service is a commercial endeavour that will transport cargo to, and from, the International Space Station (ISS) by 2028, and to other Commercial LEO Destinations after the closure of the ISS in 2030.

The ESA launched the competitive tender in December 2023 – requesting European companies to demonstrate a complete cargo delivery service. The contract is a milestone achievement for The Exploration Company: the ESA has become an anchor client – presenting further evidence of the Company’s strong commercial progress. Additionally, The Exploration Company ranked #1 in the competition. The contract is also important for certification of The Exploration Company’s vehicle by NASA.

The project will enable the ESA and the European space industry to develop competitive services for the post-ISS era, boosting European independence in low Earth orbit operations and reducing reliance on non-European entities.

Hélène Huby, CEO and co-founder of The Exploration Company, said: “We are delighted to win the competition and sign this contract with ESA. This historic initiative demonstrates ESA’s agility and willingness to act as an anchor client, hence combining public and private funding, like NASA did about 15 years ago. We shall continue to act bold, to act fast, and to act together. This is how we built Airbus and the Euro global success stories – and this is how we will build the next European space global success stories.”

Daniel Neuenschwander, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration of ESA, commented: “The LEO Cargo Return Service project exemplifies ESA’s commitment to ensuring Europe’s prominent role in space exploration. It prepares us for the post-ISS era, strengthening European industry’s competitiveness in low Earth orbit operations, as well as being a test case for the ESA transformation and working differently.”

The Exploration Company’s mission is to build accessible, sustainable and cooperative space worlds.

In February 2024, the Company announced a positive update on further testing of its Huracan engine – which will power its reusable lunar space capsule - Nyx Moon - and implemented three significant modifications and design enhancements. In March, the Exploration Company announced the successful completion of its Green Thruster testing, in Poland.

In September 2023, the Company signed a cargo services pre-booking agreement with Axiom Space, the world’s first commercial space station. It was the first time a European space capsule had been chosen by a commercial space company to develop cargo transportation services from Earth to Space and back to Earth. In February 2023, The Exploration Company completed a $40.5 million Series A fund raise, which was a record Series A round for the European Space Tech sector.

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