Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales and the Italian State-controlled company Leonardo, along with the company Space Cargo Unlimited, have announced that they will develop the REV1 spacecraft. The cargo will be the first orbiting space factory. The agreement also includes the opening of a Space Cargo Unlimited subsidiary in the city of Turin.
Founded in 2014, Space Cargo Unlimited is one of the leading private commercial operators in Europe for vehicles dedicated to space production. With the ambition of leveraging a fleet of autonomous spacecraft, Space Cargo Unlimited aims to pave the way for space production. Thales Alenia Space, on the other hand, will be solely responsible for the design, engineering, and development of the REV1 vehicle.
“The opening of our headquarters in Turin in the coming weeks will allow us to position ourselves at the heart of the Italian space ecosystem. Italy is one of the most dynamic ecosystems in Europe. We are excited to work on the development of REV1 in close collaboration with Thales Alenia Space, a European leader in space infrastructure for over 40 years” stated Nicolas Gaume, CEO and co-founder of Space Cargo Unlimited.
“The signing of this contract once again demonstrates Thales Alenia Space’s leading role in low orbit re-entry systems. We are pleased to be the chosen partner of Space Cargo Unlimited. We offer them our unparalleled expertise in the development of reusable re-entry systems and pressurized modules” said Massimo Comparini, CEO of Thales Alenia Space Italy. “By taking a central position in new space initiatives and collaborating with innovative start-ups, we will face new challenges. We are proud to embark on a new adventure that highlights the growing strategic importance of the space sector. Thales Alenia Space will develop REV1. This project will be significant in enhancing the technological capabilities of the European space industry, placing both companies at the forefront of the Space Economy with new space applications”.
Achievements of Alenia Space
After designing and producing 50% of the pressurized sections of the International Space Station (ISS), including the well-known “Cupola” Thales Alenia Space will also play a major role in the Lunar Gateway. At the same time, the company is also engaged in supplying pressurized cargo modules for the entire Cygnus fleet of Northrop Grumman.
Furthermore, the company was the prime contractor for the now tested Intermediate Experimental Reentry Vehicle (IXV) and is currently working with AVIO on its evolution, Space Rider. The latter is an autonomous and multi-mission spacecraft commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA), for which Thales Alenia Space is currently working. The mission? To make low orbit more accessible and agile through automated reusable vehicles.
“It is precisely this unique competence in Europe that Space Cargo Unlimited has sought for its REV1 spacecraft, which will serve as a specialized platform for experimentation and production in space” reiterated Gaume. Space Cargo Unlimited plans to commercially operate a fleet of cargo vehicles capable of autonomously returning to Earth without a crew, in order to harness the unique potential offered by the microgravity environment.
The pressurized REV1 vehicle will be a true orbiting space factory. It will be used for specific missions, particularly in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and new materials. REV1 will be able to create unique laboratory conditions and true “clean rooms” essential for this type of research and specific production processes.
The first REV1 vehicle, scheduled for launch in late 2025, must be adaptable and compatible with any available launch system. This feature will make it unique for conducting new missions, especially in equatorial orbit. Designed to be reusable for a total of 20 missions, REV1 will carry payloads for 2-3 months in space. One of the ambitions of the partnership between the two companies is also to build a true “Space Garage” in Turin to repair and overhaul future space vehicles.
This partnership agreement fully reflects Thales Alenia Space’s approach, which includes creating greater synergies with start-ups in the field of space exploration. Furthermore, the goal of the project initiated with Space Cargo Unlimited is perfectly aligned with Thales Alenia Space’s vision of “Space for life” contributing to making life better and more sustainable on Earth through space.