ESA and Vast to study cooperation on future commercial space stations

ORLANDO, Fla. — The European Space Agency has signed an agreement with Vast to study how the agency could use and support the company’s commercial space stations.

ESA and Vast signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) June 6 during the ILA Berlin air show, agreeing to study collaboration on the commercial space stations that Vast plans to develop, starting with the Haven-1 station Vast plans to launch in the second half of next year.

According to the statement, ESA and Vast will study potential use of Vast stations by ESA and its member states. They will also look for roles for European industry for providing components for Vast’s stations, as well as use of future European crew and cargo spacecraft.

“Today ESA has further proven its determination to play a crucial role into the further development of the LEO economy in space for Europe and European citizens,” Josef Aschbacher, director general of ESA, said in a statement. “Our teams are looking forward to working closely with Vast teams to ensure the European interests and our collective role in space exploration.”

In an interview, Max Haot, chief executive of Vast, said the agreement is a first step towards winning business from Europe, a key partner on the International Space Station, on his company’s commercial space stations.

“The European ecosystem, led by ESA, is a very important partner to any future ISS replacement station,” he said. “A big priority for us is that we build to their requirements and we enable opportunities to fly their payloads and astronauts.”

The MoU, he added, is “a first step, a signal that they see Vast as a credible partner.”

The long-term focus of the agreement is on the space station Vast seeks to develop and offer to NASA through that agency’s Commercial Low Earth Orbit Destinations, or CLD, program. It could, though, include opportunities to fly ESA astronauts or payloads on the smaller Haven-1 station Vast is currently developing.

It could also include any private astronaut missions (PAMs) that Vast wins from NASA to the ISS. Vast announced in February its intent to compete for future such missions to the ISS. Axiom Space has, to date, won all four PAMs awarded by NASA, with the fourth to be flown late this year. Haot said he is still waiting for NASA to issue a solicitation for the next PAM competition, but is hoping NASA will select new missions before the end of the year.

He said Vast in talks with other countries, including ISS partners, on use of Vast stations. “We’re engaging all countries, including key ones that are part of the ISS,” he said, but with no formal agreements yet. “ESA is the first, but we obviously hope to build momentum in Europe and other regions of the world.”


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