Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space conducts European Space Agency (ESA) study on a new transport system for return to Earth: the Advanced Re-entry Vehicle (ARV)

Bremen, 7 July 2009 – Airbus Defence and Space, Europe’s leading space company, is conducting a study for a future European Transport System, ARV (Advanced Re-entry Vehicle), on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). Accordingly, Airbus Defence and Space is exploring the requirements for a system transporting cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and back to Earth as well as the necessary steps to realise such a program. The ARV programme study by ESA amounts to €21 million.

  •  Transportation of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and back to Earth to be studied within the ARV programme 
  •  The study programme amounts to €21 million
  •  First flight is possible in 2016 


“Airbus Defence and Space, in its role as industrial prime contractor for the Columbus laboratory and the ATV, has built up leading edge competencies which will pave the way for the development of transporting cargo for return to Earth,” said Dr. Michael Menking, Head of Orbital Systems and Space Exploration, Airbus Defence and Space. “It would be possible to have a European unmanned cargo transport system based on the ATV ready for its first demonstration flight by 2016.”

The European spaceship needs to be equipped with the capability to return to Earth safely, as the present version of the ATV burns up when it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere. This evolutionary step is in any case a useful and even necessary undertaking, in view of the fact that there will be only limited means of transporting material back from the space station to Earth when NASA retires its shuttle fleet from service in 2010. After that, the only option will be to use the Russian Soyuz capsule to bring back crew members and material from the ISS.


At the ESA Ministerial Council meeting in November 2008, Member States adopted a series of new programmes in the field of space exploration. ARV, one of these programmes, is slated to run 18 months during which a phase A study will be undertaken by Airbus Defence and Space. ESA decided to directly award the contract to Airbus Defence and Space due to its unrivalled know-how and experience in this area.

The study responds to Europe’s status as a qualified partner in developing automatic transport vehicles to supply the ISS. ARV will be an evolution of ATV, successfully flown to the ISS in 2008. On the basis of the evaluation of various options for transporting cargo to the ISS and back to Earth the next step could be to investigate additional possibilities of using the ARV to transport astronauts into space and bring them safely back to Earth.


Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2008, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €4.3 billion and more than 15,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment and Airbus Defence and Space for the development and delivery of satellite services.


AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2008, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €43.3 billion and employed a workforce of more than 118, 000.

Press contacts:

Daniel Mosely (Airbus Defence and Space UK)                                                      Tel.:  +44 (0)1 438 77 8180 

Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR)                                             Tel.:  +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32 

Ralph Heinrich (Airbus Defence and Space GER)                                                  Tel. : +49 (0) 89 607 33971

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP)                                                Tel.:   +34 91 586 37 41

ARVInternational Space StationATV