Thales Alenia Space Reveals ASCEND Feasibility Study Results on Space Data Centers

Thales Alenia Space Reveals ASCEND Feasibility Study Results on Space Data Centers

Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), announced the promising results of the ASCEND (Advanced Space Cloud for European Net zero emission and Data sovereignty) feasibility study. Launched in 2023 and funded by the European Commission under the Horizon Europe program, this initiative aims to study the feasibility of space-based data centers to work toward the EU Green Deal’s objective of net-zero carbon by 2050 and transform the European space and digital ecosystem.

For this study, Thales Alenia Space coordinated a European consortium of partners with complementary expertise in environmental aspects (Carbone 4, VITO), cloud computing (Orange Business, CloudFerro, Hewlett Packard Enterprise), launchers (ArianeGroup), and orbital systems (German space agency DLR, Airbus Defence & Space, and Thales Alenia Space).

A project within Europe’s reach

The purpose of the ASCEND study was to compare the environmental impacts of space-based and Earth-based data centers. It was also intended to validate the technological feasibility of developing, deploying and operating such centers in orbit. In order to significantly reduce the CO2 emissions generated by the processing and storage of digital, the results of the study estimate that such space infrastructures would require the development of a launcher ten times less emissive over its entire lifecycle. Moreover, space data centers would not require water to cool them, a key advantage in times of increasing drought.

Curbing the energy and environment impacts of data centers could kick-start major investments within the framework of the EU Green Deal, potentially justifying the development of a high-capacity, eco-designed and reusable launcher. Thanks to ArianeGroup’s contribution and to analytics from ESA’s PROTEIN feasibility study, ASCEND validated the feasibility of a launcher capable of conducting multiple launches while mitigating their carbon footprint. Modular space infrastructures would be assembled in orbit using robotic technologies from the European Commission’s EROSS IOD (European Robotic Orbital Support Services In Orbit Demonstrator) led by Thales Alenia Space, scheduled to fly its first mission in 2026. This would enable Europe to restore its leadership in transportation, space logistics and assembly of large in-orbit infrastructures.

Ensuring Europe’s digital sovereignty

The ASCEND project could contribute to Europe’s digital sovereignty, reducing its digital carbon footprint while ensuring data security for citizens and businesses alike. The market for data centers by 2030 is estimated at 23 gigawatts of capacity; ASCEND aims to deploy one gigawatt before 2050. The results of the study also confirm the project’s economic viability, offering a prospect of a return on investment of several billion euros between now and 2050.

“The results of the ASCEND study confirm that deploying data centers in space could transform the European digital landscape, offering a more eco-friendly and sovereign solution for hosting and processing data. We’re proud to be contributing to an initiative supporting Europe’s net-zero objectives and strengthening its technological sovereignty.” said Christophe Valorge, Chief Technical Officer, Thales Alenia Space.

Thales Alenia Space and its partners now intend to pursue the ASCEND feasibility study to consolidate and optimize its results. At the same time, a paradigm shift within the space sector is required to accomplish the project’s goals, leveraging technologies that are within reach for Europe.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Health and Digital Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the European Union or European Health and Digital Executive Agency can be held responsible for them.

Click here to learn about the ASCEND feasibility study.

Publisher: SatNow
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Satellite NameOrbit Date
BeiDou-3 G4Geostationary Orbit (GEO)17 May, 2023
BeiDou-3 G2Geostationary Orbit (GEO)09 Mar, 2020
Compass-IGSO7Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)09 Feb, 2020
BeiDou-3 M19Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M20Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M21Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M22Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 I3Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M23Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019
BeiDou-3 M24Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019


Satellite NameOrbit Date
GSAT0223MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0224MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0219MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0220MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0221MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0222MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0215MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0216MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0217MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0218MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Kosmos 2569--07 Aug, 2023
Kosmos 2564--28 Nov, 2022
Kosmos 2559--10 Oct, 2022
Kosmos 2557--07 Jul, 2022
Kosmos 2547--25 Oct, 2020
Kosmos 2545--16 Mar, 2020
Kosmos 2544--11 Dec, 2019
Kosmos 2534--27 May, 2019
Kosmos 2529--03 Nov, 2018
Kosmos 2527--16 Jun, 2018


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Navstar 82Medium Earth Orbit19 Jan, 2023
Navstar 81Medium Earth Orbit17 Jun, 2021
Navstar 78Medium Earth Orbit22 Aug, 2019
Navstar 77Medium Earth Orbit23 Dec, 2018
Navstar 76Medium Earth Orbit05 Feb, 2016
Navstar 75Medium Earth Orbit31 Oct, 2015
Navstar 74Medium Earth Orbit15 Jul, 2015
Navstar 73Medium Earth Orbit25 Mar, 2015
Navstar 72Medium Earth Orbit29 Oct, 2014
Navstar 71Medium Earth Orbit02 Aug, 2014


Satellite NameOrbit Date
NVS-01Geostationary Orbit (GEO)29 May, 2023
IRNSS-1IInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)12 Apr, 2018
IRNSS-1HSub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO)31 Aug, 2017
IRNSS-1GGeostationary Orbit (GEO)28 Apr, 2016
IRNSS-1FGeostationary Orbit (GEO)10 Mar, 2016
IRNSS-1EGeosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)20 Jan, 2016
IRNSS-1DInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)28 Mar, 2015
IRNSS-1CGeostationary Orbit (GEO)16 Oct, 2014
IRNSS-1BInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Apr, 2014
IRNSS-1AInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)01 Jul, 2013