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European Space Agency signs contract for moon-orbiter module


Nasa-led space station to orbit the moon with at least one European-made module

The European Space Agency has signed a contract with the aerospace company Thales Alenia Space to build a communication and refueling module for a planned moon-orbiting space station, called Gateway.

The module, Espirit, will allow orbiting astronauts to speak to colleagues on the moon and carry extra fuel for the outpost and for filling up lunar landers or other craft.

Thales Alenia Space, part of the Paris-based Thales Group, said on 7 January that its French team would lead the building work, with help from staff based in Italy, the UK, Belgium and Spain.

The €296.5 million contract covers the Espirit module alone, but the company is building many other parts of Gateway, which is central to Nasa’s Artemis programme to return humans to the moon.

Two core Gateway modules, carrying the station’s engine and crew habitat, must be in orbit for the Artemis III mission in 2024, which will see astronauts land on the moon surface. Espirit is due to be attached to Gateway in 2027.