Monday, April 15, 2024
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Thales Alenia Space Signs Contract with the Italian Space Agency to Develop Communications System for the International Mars Ice Mapper Mission

Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has signed a contract with the Italian space agency (ASI) to develop the communications subsystem for the innovative International Mars Ice Mapper (I-MIM) mission. This Phase B1 contract, worth a total amount of about €22 million, follows on from the previous Phase A award to Thales Alenia Space in 2021, successfully completed in 2022.

I-MIM is a mission in partnership with the Italian space agency (ASI), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA to develop a Mars orbiter, with the goal of identifying and measuring the extent and volume of water ice in the mid- and low-latitude regions of Mars, where it is possible to plan the first potential human surface missions to Mars.

Thales Alenia Space will be responsible for the mission’s multi-user communications system and will also develop the innovative Large Deployable Reflector (LDR) antenna enabling the orbiter to establish high-data-rate communications with ground stations in both Ka- and X-band. The same antenna will serve the SAR instrument operating in L-band. Thales Alenia Space will build a six-meter-aperture demonstration model of the LDR at the end of the two-year phase. A study of a complementary payload, based on a new VHF sounding radar to measure the depth of the ice profile to support and complement the SAR data, is also foreseen.

“ASI’s decision to entrust us with the development of this innovative communications system confirms our company’s long and recognized experience in the production of satellites and radar technologies for communications and Earth observation,” said Massimo Comparini, Deputy CEO and Senior Executive Vice President, Observation, Exploration, and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space. “With this large antenna, Thales Alenia Space is developing enabling technologies for future challenges in Earth observation, planetary observation and communications systems, as well as for institutional and commercial systems. In addition, our participation in the International Mars Ice Mapper mission will pave the way for us to play a primary role in Earth-Mars communications, a key step in preparing for future human missions.”

Thales Alenia Space has long-standing expertise in the design, assembly, testing, and integration of large antennas for deep-space exploration missions such as Cassini-Huygens, which explored Saturn and its moon Titan, and BepiColombo, currently on its way to Mercury.

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