Le Bourget. June 19, 2017 . 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 AleniaSpace, 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.”