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Human Spaceflight

Human Spaceflight

Airbus Defence and Space plays a significant role in the major successes associated with European orbital systems, customers and partners worldwide rely on our experience and innovative spirit.


Today, Airbus Defence and Space works on a number of exciting space projects, including Orion ESM, the ISS' Columbus module, Bartolomeo and ATV. A global competence centre for all human spaceflight-related activities, our additional competences include astronaut training, life support systems for Earth and space, space robotics, space exploration programmes and, last but not least, sounding rockets for microgravity experiments.



Orion, the next-generation NASA's Spacecraft designed for manned space exploration missions of destinations beyond low Earth orbit (asteroids, the Moon, Mars), will be powered by a European Service Module (ESM) developed and built by Airbus Defence and Space. This ESM will power the Orion capsule and its crew deeper into space than ever before.


#1 European supplierfor a NASA spacecraft
1st uncrewed flight planned for 2018
Up to 4 astronautscan be send to space
33 engines*to manoeuvre the spacecraft

*of 3 different types

Drawing on their experience with the International Space Station (ISS), they know by heart what life support systems need to look like. NASA cannot fly without us, and we cannot fly without them

Oliver Juckenhoefel, Airbus Defence and Space


See the Orion ESM infographic



Columbus is a pressurised laboratory with its own independent life support system. It's one of the primary European contributions to the International Space Station (ISS) that was built and is being operated by Airbus Defence and Space. Astronaut-researchers on-board the ISS are currently carrying out a number of experiments, covering material science, medicinei, pharmaceuticals, human physiology, biology, Earth observation, fluid physics and astronomy.


Successful launchin February 2008
41 subcontractorsmanaged
A 14 countriesproject
15 yearsof operating time


Our success with Columbus is not only a great testament to the whole Airbus Defence and Space team but also cements our reputation as a true global player in the field of human space travel

Helmut Luttmann, Airbus Defence and Space




Named after the younger brother of Christopher Columbus, the Bartolomeo platform is attached to the European Columbus Module and operated by Airbus Defence and Space. This All-in-One Mission Service comprises all mission elements into one commercial contract (mission preparation, payload launch, payload on-orbit installation, commissioning, operation, payload data processing and delivery), in order to provide the customer a reliable integrated mission solution. The offer includes:

  • Launch opportunities are available on every servicing mission to the ISS, payloads can be launched pressurized or unpressurized...
  • Easy mission preparation: Payload sizes, interfaces, preparation steps and integration processes largely standardized
  • Highly Cost-Efficient: customers can save significantly compared to traditional mission cost. This makes Bartolomeo ideal for R&D missions e.g. technology démonstrations


A 10-year experiencein integrating/operating payloads
Only 12 monthsof lead time
20 years of experiencein cargo transportation/operation
Available in 2018for first missions

Our 'ISS balcony' provides a highly cost-and-time-efficient means to perform a space mission in LEO or to test and validate new technology in orbit

Bart Reijnen, Airbus Defence and Space



Bartolomeo page

Bartolomeo brochure

Launching program Press Release


Automated transfer vehicle (atv)

The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) dubbed the ISS’s lifeline to Earth, ferried propellants, food, water and equipment to the ISS between 2008 and 2015.

Once docked, an ATV used its own engines to:

  • correct the station’s orbit
  • compensate for a regular loss of altitude due to drag
  • contribute to collision and debris avoidance

At the end of a mission, the ATV was filled with waste, de-docked and burned up as it headed back into the Earth's atmosphere. The ground-breaking innovations and learnings obtained during the ATV development and missions now serve as a fundamental basis for the development of the Orion ESM.