Thales Alenia Space

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Thales Alenia Space
PredecessorAlcatel Space and Finmeccanica
HeadquartersCannes, France
Key people
Hervé Derrey, President and CEO
€2.15 billion (2021)[1]
Number of employees
8,900 (2021)
ParentThales Group (67%)
Leonardo (33%)
The Headquarters of Thales Alenia Space in the seashore building of the Cannes Mandelieu Space Center

Thales Alenia Space (/ˈθɑːlɛz/) is a Franco-Italian aerospace manufacturer. A joint venture between the French technology corporation Thales Group (67%) and Italian defense conglomerate Leonardo (33%), the company is the largest satellite manufacturer in Europe. It is headquartered in Cannes, France.

Thales Alenia Space designs and builds various space-related products, notably manufacturing numerous ranges of satellites for telecommunications, navigation, earth observation and space exploration purposes.[1] The company is the second largest industrial participant in the International Space Station (ISS), having produced the European Space Agency's (ESA) modules for the ISS. It is also building satellites for Galileo, a European global satellite navigation system (GSNS).


Thales Alenia Space arose as a result of the French defense electronics specialist Thales Group deciding to buy out the participation of Alcatel in two joint-ventures between France's Alcatel and Italy's Finmeccanica, Alcatel Alenia Space and Telespazio.[2] Accordingly, on 1 June 2005, Alcatel Alenia Space was established by the merger of Alcatel Space and Alenia Spazio; it was initially owned by Alcatel-Lucent (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%). The creation of the company was concurrent with the creation of Telespazio Holding; this too was a merger of Finmeccanica and Alcatel businesses (Telespazio and Alcatel's Space Services and Operations respectively).[3][4]

On 5 April 2006, Alcatel announced that it intended to sell its share in Alcatel Alenia Space (and its 33% stake in Telespazio) to Thales Group.[5] On 10 April 2007, the European Union, which had performed an in-depth investigation into the proposed transaction over its potential impact on market competition, gave its approval for the transference to proceed.[6][7] That same day, a Thales Group press release hailed the creation of a new space alliance between itself and Finmeccanica.[8]

According to a statement by Thales UK chief executive Alex Dorrian issued during 2007, Thales Alenia Space has actively sought out opportunities for both partnership and acquisition amongst other space enterprises.[9] In December 2007, it was announced that Thales Alenia Space and Russian satellite specialist NPO PM have agreed to develop the new Express-4000 multi-mission satellite bus, which incorporates Russian equipment with a Thales-built payload.[10] Since then, Thales Alenia Space has developed subcontracting relationships with North American aerospace companies, including Ball Aerospace and Boeing.[11]


Thales Alenia Space is a major European satellite specialist. These satellites range in purpose, from telecommunications to navigation, Earth observation and space exploration. Since 2007, the company has been regarded as the largest satellite manufacturer, in both the civilian and military sectors, in Europe.[12][9]

In the mid-1990s, the United States stopped issuing export licenses for satellite components that will be launched on Chinese rockets, fearing that such launches would help China's military. In response, Thales Alenia developed a line of ITAR-free satellites that contained no restricted U.S. components. Between 2005 and 2012, numerous ITAR-free satellites, such as Apstar 6,[13] Chinasat-6B, and Apstar 7, were launched on Chinese Long March launch vehicles.[14][15] However, the United States Department of State disputed the ITAR-free status of these satellites, issuing a US$8 million fine to the American company Aeroflex for selling ITAR components. During 2013, Thales Alenia decided to discontinue its ITAR-free satellite line.[16]

A major proportion of Thales Alenia Space's business is centered around the production of communications satellites, in which it is a world leader.[12][17] During 2010, Thales Alenia Space received a US$2.9 billion fixed-price contract to manufacture a total of 81 satellites for Iridium Communications' NEXT satellite telephony network.[18] It is also engaged in producing a separate batch of 24 satellites for Globalstar's second generation network.[12] The firm is also responsible for producing satellites for Galileo, a European global satellite navigation system (GSNS).[12][19]

The company constructed the Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules, which were used to transport cargo inside the Space Shuttle orbiters. Thales Alenia Space also built several modules for the International Space Station (ISS): the Cupola, the Columbus, Harmony, Tranquility and Leonardo.[3] After the American aerospace corporation Boeing, Thales Alenia Space was the second largest industrial provider to the ISS.[12] It also built the pressure vessels for the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and Cygnus spacecraft.[3] During the 2010s, Thales Alenia Space manufactured the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV),[20] a prototype suborbital spaceplane intended to validate work towards reusable launcher systems, acting as a stepping stone towards the Programme for Reusable In-orbit Demonstrator in Europe (PRIDE program) and the consequential Space Rider that harnesses IPX technology.[21][22] It has also engaged with other space exploration efforts, such as proposed lunar cargo landing vehicle.[23]


In 2016, Thales Alenia Space had 7,980 employees and from 2016 operates in 17 industrial sites located in eight countries (France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and United States):

Executive Board[edit]

Jean-Loïc Galle as 2015

Current CEO is Hervé Derrey since February 2020, replacing Jean-Loïc Galle.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Space for Life". Thales Group. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Alcatel and Finmeccanica finalize the creation of new joint ventures and announce nominations" (Press release). Alcatel. 1 July 2005. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Montrasio, Simone (24 July 2016). "Nuovi Cygnus PCM ordinati alla Thales Alenia Space di Torino".
  4. ^ Coppinger, Rob (9 November 2007). "Alcatel's path to Thales". Flight International.
  5. ^ "Alcatel pursues the transfer of its satellite activities and critical systems for security to Thales" (Press release). Alcatel. 5 April 2006. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012.
  6. ^ Coppinger, Rob (4 April 2007). "European Commission approves Thales take over of Alcatel's share of Alenia Space and Telespazio". Flight International.
  7. ^ "Alcatel-Lucent cleared by the EU to transfer its space assets to Thales" (Press release). Thales Alenia Space. 10 April 2007. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Creation of the New Space Alliance between Thales and Finmeccanica" (Press release). Thales Alenia Space. 10 April 2007. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012.
  9. ^ a b Turner, Aimée (31 August 2007). "Thales has eyes on UK space sector". Flight International.
  10. ^ Coppinger, Rob (14 December 2017). "Thales makes strategic partnership with NPO PM". Flight International.
  11. ^ Putrich, Gayle (24 June 2010). "SpaceX seals biggest-ever commercial launch deal". Flight International.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Exhibitor Spotlight: Thales Alenia Space". Space Tech Expo. 24 November 2016.
  13. ^ Harvey, Brian (2013). China in Space: The Great Leap Forward. New York: Springer. pp. 160–162. ISBN 9781461450436.
  14. ^ "China launches satellite despite restrictions". USA TODAY. 6 July 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  15. ^ Coppinger, Rob (24 August 2007). "Watch this space". Flight International.
  16. ^ Ferster, Warren (5 September 2013). "U.S. Satellite Component Maker Fined $8 Million for ITAR Violations". SpaceNews.
  17. ^ Coppinger, Rob (20 June 2007). "Thales Alenia Space leads Paris space pack". Flight International.
  18. ^ Kirby, Mary (3 June 2010). "Iridium's NEXT plan progresses with Thales Alenia Space deal". Flight International.
  19. ^ Gubisch, Michael (9 March 2018). "Thales to develop dual GPS/Galileo satellite navigation system". Flight International.
  20. ^ Rosenberg, Zach (22 June 2011). "PARIS: ESA signs IXV construction contract". Flight International.
  21. ^ Space Rider PRIDE Italian Aerospace Research Centre Accessed: 15 November 2018
  22. ^ "ESA experimental spaceplane completes research flight". ESA. 11 February 2015. ESA's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle flew a flawless reentry and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean just west of the Galapagos islands.
  23. ^ Coppinger, Rob (5 June 2009). "Europe looks beyond just science". Flight International.
  24. ^ "Thales Alenia Space Will Build Ses-22 and Ses-23 Satellites". WebWire. Retrieved 2 November 2020.

External links[edit]