Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its plant in Toulouse, France, at an event attended by representatives of the Occitanie regional authority and Toulouse municipal authority, space agencies, partners and stakeholders from the local business ecosystem.
Thales Alenia Space’s French headquarters in Toulouse is the largest of its nine industrial plants in Europe. Since opening in 1983, the plant has established itself as a leader in the development and integration of leading-edge space technologies, while contributing to the growth of the local economy. Today, its 2,800+ employees work in altimetry, civil and military communication payloads and systems, satellite navigation, and ground segments.
“In celebrating this 40th anniversary of our Toulouse plant, we’re not only honoring our heritage but also the future we’re building with our local partners to foster significant technological advances across the satellite industry,” said Denis Allard, Toulouse plant Director. “Thales Alenia Space’s successes and expertise are underpinned by a New Space approach serving innovation and sustainable development. By addressing the most complex technological challenges and positioning itself in the vanguard of future space technologies like 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) and quantum communications, Thales Alenia Space is maintaining its status as a key space player, while strengthening its ties with the city of Toulouse and contributing to local development.”
A communications pioneer: from TDF2 to Space Inspire
Over the last 40 years, Thales Alenia Space’s plant in Toulouse has established itself as a center of excellence in satellite communications. Having designed payloads for the TDF2, Eutelsat II and Telecom2/Syracuse2 satellites in the 1980s, and for Intelsat 7 and Intelsat 9 in the 1990s, the plant has already developed more than 300 payloads and is currently designing the ones of Space Inspire (INstant SPace In-orbit REconfiguration), a fully in-orbit reconfigurable product line. Space Inspire’s capabilities and flexibility have been recognized by the world’s leading operators, with five satellites ordered in 2022.
A trailblazer in European satellite navigation: from EGNOS to Galileo 2nd Generation (G2G)
The Toulouse plant goes back to the very beginnings of satellite navigation in Europe. Having previously supplied the mission ground segment for the first-generation Galileo constellation, in service since 2016, it won the contract in July this year for the mission ground segment for Galileo 2nd Generation (G2G). The plant is also prime contractor for the current version of EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service), Europe’s satellite navigation system that started operation in 2009. This system augments positional fixes from the Global Positioning System (GPS), and is soon set to do so for Galileo. This expertise has also brought Thales Alenia Space a series of successes in export markets, including a satellite navigation system in South Korea and numerous demonstrations in Africa.
It is also in Toulouse that Thales Alenia Space developed the MEOLUT Next solution, a ground station used to operate the COSPAS-SARSAT network’s global MEOSAR search-and-rescue service. MEOLUT Next is already helping nations around the world to save lives, in the European Union, United States, Canada, Togo, Vietnam and Thailand. The system can detect and locate distress signals on land, at sea and in the air within a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles).
Thales Alenia Space in Toulouse has also leveraged its expertise in constellations and navigation systems to address new markets requiring new navigation and geolocation capabilities, such as Kineis, the first French constellation dedicated to the Internet of things (IoT), and Omnispace, for which the first two nanosatellites were orbited in 2022.
Pioneering satellite altimetry for Earth observation: from TOPEX/Poseidon to SWOT
Toulouse plant is a world leader in satellite altimetry for Earth observation. Since the Poseidon altimeter developed jointly with the French space agency CNES for missions like TOPEX/Poseidon, marking the advent of precision altimetry, Thales Alenia Space has become the gold standard in this field with the Jason series of satellites in partnership with NASA, the Poseidon-4 digital altimeter on the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-6 satellite, the SIRAL 2 and AltiKa altimeters, and the SWIM wave spectrometer. More recently, the French-U.S. SWOT satellite (Surface Water and Ocean Topography), launched in late 2022, is revolutionizing modern oceanography and land surface hydrology with its ability to detect ocean features at ten times higher resolution than current technologies.
The Toulouse plant currently contributes to the Copernicus program, for which it is developing the IRIS radar altimeter for the CRISTAL mission and the wide-swath and NADIR altimeters for Sentinel-3 New Generation.
An innovation incubator and a New Space approach
R&D and innovation are integral to Thales Alenia Space’s development strategy in Toulouse. Since 2014, Thales Alenia Space has deployed a pioneering approach centered on its Innovation Cluster, complementing its R&D efforts. This initiative has fostered disruptive intrapreneurship projects like Space Edge Computing in partnership with Microsoft, and partnerships with more than 700 startups including local firms Kineis, Anywaves, Exotrail, Loft Orbital and USpace, as well as small-to-midsize firms like Synergie-Cad, working closely together to produce high-value complex electronics systems. All of these projects are helping to promote Thales Alenia Space as a key player in the New Space ecosystem.
This year Thales Alenia Space has gone one step further in its commitment to innovation with the launch of Space Business Catalyst. Based in Toulouse and Turin, this industrial accelerator aims to actively support innovative projects that will shape tomorrow’s markets. It supports startups in the early stages of their growth, providing them with vital expertise in defining and executing strategies to scale up their business. This agile structure will favor the emergence of solutions likely to significantly boost the space market and drive technology disruption. In Toulouse, Space Business Catalyst is supporting startups SpaceLocker, Orbital Matter and 3IPK.
A focus on sustainable development
Thales Alenia Space is committed to achieving sustainability in everything it does, through product eco-design and its corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach. For example, the Toulouse plant today opened one of the largest solar-canopy parking lots on an industrial site in France. Covering two of the plant’s main parking lots, the 13,400 sq.m of canopies installed in partnership with EDF ENR, a subsidiary of the EDF Group, will meet 10% of the plant's total energy needs. These new-generation parking lots will cut the company’s CO2 emissions by 65 metric tons a year equivalent to the consumption of more than 630 homes.
Thales Alenia Space also signed today a corporate sponsorship agreement with the City of Toulouse to restore springs on the Candie site where its plant is located, and to pursue restoration and tree-planting work in the park and create extensive green spaces. More broadly, the project aims to transform the site for the benefit of local underserved neighborhoods, support local organic farming and aid adaptation to climate change by mitigating urban heat island effects.
About Thales Alenia Space
Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space (thalesaleniaspace.com) delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 2.2 billion euros in 2022 and has around 8,500 employees in 17 sites in 10 countries across Europe and a plant in the USA.
Thales Alenia Space Press Contact: Catherine des Arcis
T: +33(0)6 78 64 63 97 - E: catherine.des-arcis[.]thalesaleniaspace.com.