ESA and Airbus sign partnership agreement

a new commercial venture on the International Space Station, whose versatile design allows for many mission types at competitive prices from next year.
The SpaceX Dragon © NASA Johnson / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

The European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus have signed a commercial partnership (PPP) agreement for the construction, launch and operations of the commercial ‘Bartolomeo’ platform on the International Space Station (ISS).

Quick access to space, high-speed data feed and a unique vantage point are the selling points of Bartolomeo – a new commercial venture on the International Space Station, whose versatile design allows for many mission types at competitive prices from next year.

The International Space Station has been growing in size during the past 20 years, and so have the number of platforms dedicated to science in orbit. However, researchers and engineers are finding it harder to acquire slots for their experiments. The new external payload hosting facility will be attached to the European Columbus module of the ISS.

The agreement defines the roles and responsibilities of the two PPP partners, with Airbus investing around €40m into the development, construction and launch of this innovative platform, and ESA providing Bartolomeo’s installation on the space station.

Bartolomeo will be launched in the unpressurised compartment of an ISS supply vehicle and installed using the ISS robotics system and an extravehicular activity.

Who will use the new platform?

Bartolomeo aims to attract new European users to the ISS, including a community of start-ups and space entrepreneurs. As companies piggyback off existing station resources to reduce cost, new commercial opportunities will arise.

This is the first time that a European commercial partnership is offering the opportunity to carry out science and demonstrate technology outside of the International Space Station.

David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA said: “The ISS is one of humanities’ most exciting research facilities, and with Bartolomeo and Airbus’ unique service concept, we will be able to offer more capacity to more users from more domains in the very near future.”

The Bartolomeo platform, named after the younger brother of Christopher Columbus, will be mounted on the forward side of Columbus, 400km above Earth. Users will enjoy a data downlink capacity of 10 Gbit/s – enough to download a high-definition movie within 30 seconds.

Bartolomeo is set for launch in 2019 on a SpaceX Dragon cargo ferry.

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