Thales Alenia Space to acquire minority stake in French company Airstar Aerospace

Photo copyright: ©Thales Alenia Space/Briot

PARIS, 20-Jun-2017 — /EuropaWire/ — Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (66%) and Leonardo (33%), a major player in the market for satellites, scientific spacecraft and orbital infrastructures, today confirmed its acquisition of a minority stake in French company Airstar Aerospace, a leader in the construction of airships and flexible structures of all types and operating at all altitudes.

Jean-Philippe Chessel, head of the Stratobus™ product line at Thales Alenia Space, and Romain Chabert, Chief Executive Officer of Airstar Aerospace, signed the official agreement today on the Airstar Aerospace stand at the Paris Air Show (French Riviera pavilion, hall 4, stand B78).

Through this strategic partnership, the two companies will be able to address certain technological roadblocks on Stratobus™, a project to develop an autonomous HAPS [High Altitude Platform System] type airship. Launched in 2015 by Thales Alenia Space, the project will benefit from the two partners’ respective areas of expertise, with a flight prototype expected to be ready towards 2020.

Thales Alenia Space’s equity investment ensures the development of Stratobus™ by calling on the expertise of Airstar Aerospace, unrivaled in Europe, concerning the design of smart, high-performance and connected airships.

Airstar Aerospace provides an excellent fit with Thales’ development of four key technologies for its own and its customers’ digital transformation, namely connectivity, mobility, big data, artificial intelligence and cyber-security. This strategic partnership will give Airstar access to Thales’ vast ecosystem, encompassing both subsidiaries and local small businesses, enabling it to develop other projects with this major space prime.

Thales Alenia Space will call on Airstar Aerospace’s expertise in the design of innovative flexible structures for space, as well as captive observation balloons, platforms that complement the capabilities of drones and the Stratobus airship.

Following the signature, Airstar Aerospace CEO Romain Chabert said: “Airstar Aerospace is proud to be part of the array of strategic small businesses associated with Thales Alenia Space. We will use our skills and expertise to resolve one of the technical roadblocks in the development of Stratobus, namely the need for a custom-designed envelope with all its systems (nose mooring, pressure regulation, tail assembly, etc.). We will be using our highest-performance fabric for the Stratobus envelope, the lightest and strongest in the world, a fabric as thin as a sheet of paper capable of withstanding loads exceeding ten tons. We are already developing tomorrow’s technologies in our domain. This program stands out because of a determination to conquer new territory, and we are firmly convinced that by working together we will be able to fully capitalize on our technologies, by creating a truly sustainable business.

Thales Alenia Space project chief Jean Philippe Chessel added: “We are very proud to support SMI Airstar, this stake is designed to consolidate the development of Stratobus, a very innovative product for a new market involving services from the stratosphere. Airstar Aerospace’s expertise, unrivaled in Europe and recognized worldwide, is already at the heart of Stratobus, and complements the skills offered by Thales Alenia Space and our other partners. Their expertise is a vital factor in the overall success of the program and our aim of starting airship operations as early as 2021. Furthermore, with its core business of developing airships, Airstar Aerospace will enable Thales Alenia Space to develop a comprehensive Stratobus package for the intelligence, surveillance and telecommunications markets, by offering more targeted local applications. Through this strategic link-up, both companies can develop their positions in the airship market and gain a significant head start on our competitors.”

About Thales Alenia Space
Thales Alenia Space brings over 40 years of experience to the design, integration, testing and operation of innovative space systems for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. 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 and solutions. Thales Alenia Space has built up unrivaled expertise in dual (civil-military) missions, constellations, flexible high-throughput payloads, altimetry, meteorology, and high-resolution radar and optical observation. The company capitalizes on its strong legacy, while also making innovation a key to its strategy. By offering a continuous stream of new products and expanding its global footprint, Thales Alenia Space has established its leadership in today’s fast-evolving space sector. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of about 2.4 billion euros in 2016 and has 7,980 employees in nine countries.

Thales Alenia Space press contacts:

Sandrine Bielecki
Tel: +33(0)6 80 59 22 04

Chrystelle Dugimont
Tel: +33 (0)6 25 15 72 93

About Airstar Aerospace
Airstar Aerospace designs and produces captive balloons, stratospheric balloons, dirigibles and thermal protection systems for satellites, and carries out custom-designed projects for customers. Its scope of expertise spans the engineering of innovative flexible materials, assembly of engineered textiles and films, mechanical modeling of large-scale distortion, production of outfitted envelopes and flexible structures, development of equipment for airships (electronics and electromechanical assemblies, complex wiring, mechanical mooring systems, telemetry reception, inflation stations, etc.), integration of payloads (optronic, telecom, radar, etc.), balloon operation and maintenance services, including training.

Building on a half-century of experience, Airstar Aerospace considers the safety of its systems and their compliance with regulations a top priority. Many of today’s aerospace leaders are long-standing customers, including Thales, Airbus Defence and Space and French space agency CNES. A major global player in airships, Airstar is a subsidiary of the French industrial group Airstar, a world leader in lighting balloons. It was created in 2015 with the acquisition of the Space branch of Zodiac Marine. Airstar Aerospace has two production facilities in France, one near Grenoble and the other in the greater Toulouse area, both certified ISO 9001.

Airstar Aerospace press contacts:

Jacqueline Couvert du Crest
3WM Communications
Relations Presse Airstar Aerospace
Tel: +33 (0)6 60 98 24 34

Alice Clech
Airstar Aerospace
Service communication
Tel: +33 (0)4 76 13 12 20

SOURCE: Thales Group


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