#HelloSpace6: anticipating the future of manned space exploration

In September, Thales Alenia Space organized its sixth flagship innovation competition, #HelloSpace6, which took place in the stunning grounds of Queens College in Oxford, UK. Within 3 days, 54 of our colleagues, coming from different locations, submitted 11 outstanding breakthrough concepts based on the theme of this issue:

On the way to a space ecosystem!

© Thales Alenia Space

The 11 teams were asked to imagine for a moment that they were in 2050; People live on different celestial bodies. The moon was certainly the first. It all started with NASA’s ARTEMIS program in the 2010s, which aimed to bring astronauts back to the moon almost 50 years after the Apollo missions. Many people had decided to leave Earth to settle on Mars. Oh yes, we forgot to tell you: In the 2020s and 2030s, the moon became an outpost to prepare for manned space exploration missions throughout the solar system. Engineers from various space agencies settled around and on the lunar surface. A cislunar space station was created, Lunar Gateway. Orion, NASA’s manned capsule, was the spacecraft that carried astronauts from Earth to the Moon and from the Moon to space. There was a true lunar space economy created from scratch around the moon, including human landing systems, shelters, astronaut habitats, solar panels for power generation, astronaut oxygen supply systems, rovers, and much more. Engineers had even developed telecommunications and navigation systems for space around the moon.


Can you imagine that? What was before sci-fi had become reality. The planet Mars got really trendy in the 2040s.

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The Mars colony had recently completed its first permanent habitation structures and is poised to grow from the few hundred scientists and engineers stationed there now to a colony the size of which rivals the moon in the next decade. Away from the planets, the asteroid belt is a hive of activity with asteroid mining companies extracting water and precious metals from a plethora of different asteroids. It’s all managed centrally from a control center on Ceres staffed by a small group of engineers. These Mars and Ceres bases are also good starting points for further destinations in the solar system, such as Io, Europa, Ganymède, Callisto, Titan, Rhéa, Japan…

© Pixabay

The Moon remains the base of choice for missions to Venus, Mercury and the Sun. However, this swarm of human activity in space beyond Earth’s orbits brought with it specific problems, some of which were not new: extension of existing geopolitical tensions on Earth to the space realm; intensification of public/private knockout competitions; legal issues related to territory and resource ownership, nationality of space-born people; long-term subsistence and autonomy; space missions and lowering the cost of living; Logistics; Space Traffic Management… and many others you can think of!

In 2050, Thales Alenia Space has become an undisputed leader in this deep space economy. This success story started in 2022 when a small team of Innovation Fellows presented their bold vision with a short-term action plan to make it concrete and real!

© Thales Alenia Space/S. Morel

End of the story. Amazing story, don’t you think?

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return journey to earth.

Based on this inspirational briefing and keynotes by Sam Adlen of Satellite Applications Catapult, the teams were given 2 days to develop new products and business plans that would help Thales Alenia Space thrive in this new environment and enable it to to become the undisputed leader in the space economy by 2050. The 11 teams generated a wide range of ideas and, with the help of internal coaches, shaped them into interesting and innovative pitches, leading to a difficult decision for the jury tasked with selecting the best (The jury consisted of internal and external stakeholders with extensive experience and knowledge of the space economy).

Moon Gate © Thales Alenia Space/Briot

This unique event was a timely reminder of how space technologies serve the needs of our citizens around the world on Earth, but also underscores Thales Alenia Space’s position as a pioneer in exploration, robotics, space transportation, and orbital infrastructures. Indeed, by leveraging its unique experience aboard the ISS, Thales Alenia Space has become the world leader in orbital infrastructure, supplying 3 pressure modules for Lunar Gateway, 2 modules for the Axiom Commercial space station, as well as all the pressure cargo modules for Cygnus support ships. These latest are being manufactured to provide crews aboard the ISS with more than 3.5 tons of water, fuel, repairs, science experiments, astronauts’ belongings and more. Our company has used this legacy to conduct the most incredible space exploration missions across the solar system, pushing the boundaries of the universe and uncovering its deepest mysteries.

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Innovation cluster: catalyzing and driving innovations

Cartoon designed by ASTER

Founded in 2014, the innovation cluster aims to bring about disruptive industrial, technical and commercial concepts and to promote new initiatives within the company. The cluster is an integral part of Thales Alenia Space’s transformation strategy, which has a firm focus on fostering a stronger culture of innovation by fostering intrapreneurship and creativity. This network, open to all, funds innovative value-added projects proposed by employees from across the company. It is therefore a fertile breeding ground to drive disruptive concepts, complement R&D and reach the entire company. The highly agile structure can immediately allocate the budget and resources needed to quickly validate solutions with the potential to drive real market dynamics and propose leapfrogging technologies and new development paths to clients.

In addition to promoting new ideas, several fablabs (rapid prototyping workshops open to all employees) have already sprung up at Thales Alenia Space, led by the innovation cluster, in Toulouse, Rome, Cannes and Charleroi. These fablabs are a breeding ground for innovation, allowing employees to more easily explore and share their ideas through the medium of rapid prototyping.

© Thales Alenia Space

The cluster has also organized all previous #HelloSpace hackathons. More than ever, an initiative like #HelloSpace is a fertile breeding ground to drive future disruptive concepts in the space sector and to harness the creativity and intrapreneurship mentality of Thales Alenia Space employees.