CRYSALIS, a project led by Absolut System, propels advances in orbital cryogenic propellant storage and refuelling
The European Union’s Horizon Europe programme has selected a dynamic consortium comprising of Absolut System, The Exploration Company, the Centre Spatial de Liège, and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya to spearhead the groundbreaking CRYSALIS project. Dedicated to advancing cryogenic propellant storage and refuelling in-space, CRYSALIS is set to revolutionize access to space for European players and propel the development of New Space transport solutions and services. A substantial investment of 7.4 million euros has been allocated to the project by the Horizon Europe programme.
As the first-of-its-kind initiative in Europe, CRYSALIS is a collaborative effort among four leading European companies, each bringing unique expertise to the table.
Absolut system, the French coordinator, takes the helm in developing the demonstrator and associated technologies, leveraging its cryogenic expertise. The Exploration Company, a Franco-German entity, orchestrates the in-orbit demonstration, from integrative processes to the operation of their spacecraft, Nyx. The Centre Spatial de Liège in Belgium conducts flight system qualification tests, while the Polytechnic University of Catalonia leads the development of the experimental acoustic propellant management system.
The CRYSALIS project aims to develop a system for the transfer and long-term storage of cryogenic propellant in microgravity, culminating in a 6-month small-scale orbital demonstration. The demonstration system serves to validate propellant storage and transfer tests in the space environment, unlocking novel opportunities for exploration, including in-orbit transportation, long-duration missions, and in-orbit storage.
CRYSALIS stands as a flagship project propelling space exploration and the evolution of the European space transportation ecosystem. By enabling the launch of a spacecraft and its propellant separately, the technologies developed will increase the size and duration of missions to Mars and the Moon, facilitating new frontiers in space exploration.
The project’s far-reaching impacts encompass logistics and transportation applications such as propellant refuelling, maintenance, life extension, storage, and disposal in orbit. CRYSALIS also supports manufacturing and assembly in space, end-of-life management, disposal of active debris, in-orbit infrastructure for energy and/or data exchange, and safe return to Earth.
Jérôme Lacapère, General Manager of Absolut System, shares the excitement: “CRYSALIS is not a singular project; it represents a significant initiative in space exploration. Through innovations in cryogenic propellant management, it aims to extend mission durations, foster advancements, and contribute to a more service-oriented future in space.”
Hélène Huby, CEO and Co-Founder of The Exploration Company: “The CRYSALIS project will serve as a gateway to unlocking unprecedented possibilities for propellant management in microgravity. We are proud to contribute our in-orbit demonstration capabilities to this initiative which will shape the future of space missions.”
S. Habraken, Scientific Director and President of the Centre Spatial de Liège: “We are extremely proud to be part of the CRYSALIS consortium. Our expertise in Space Environmental Testing together with our dedicated facilities like thermal vacuum chambers and shakers will be used for the final qualification of the demonstrators, according to the testing specifications.”
Ricard González Cinca, Head of the UPC Space Exploration Lab: “The participation of the UPC Space Exploration Lab in the CRYSALIS project is a good example of our interest and commitment in the design and test of new technologies for space applications. We believe that the activities that we will carry out in collaboration with our partners will be very beneficial for space exploration.”
The CRYSALIS project, spearheaded by Absolut System and its eminent partners, represents much more than just a space project. It embodies the boldness and innovation that are propelling European space exploration towards new horizons.
Absolut System is a French industrial engineering SME founded in 2010 and based in Grenoble. As a subsidiary of Groupe Absolut, Absolut System is a major player in the development and supply of innovative cryogenic systems.
Absolut System develops and markets customized cryogenic equipment for a wide range of applications, including superconductivity, detection systems, on-board applications (aircraft, marine, space), cryogenic space launchers, and space propulsion.
Absolut System has taken part in prestigious space missions with the design and production of thermal links for Copernicus missions, EUCLID mission, the MTG satellite family and the supply of thermal heat exchangers for the Mechanical Pump Loop developed by Thalès Alenia Space for very large GEO telecom satellites.
The Exploration Company
The Exploration Company’s mission is to democratize space exploration, making it affordable, sustainable and cooperative. To realize this mission, The Exploration Company develops manufactures and operates “Nyx”, a modular and reusable orbital vehicle that can eventually be refuelled in orbit and uses green propellants. Nyx provides a wide scope of missions ranging from resupplying space stations around the Earth and the Moon, free flying around the Earth or landing in the Moon – and safely coming back to Earth. Nyx will begin by flying cargo and has the potential to carry humans.
Centre Spatial de Liège
Founded in 1964 by the University of Liège, the Centre Spatial de Liège (CSL) is an applied research center focused on the design of space observation instruments, with environmental test facilities serving the European Space Agency (ESA), the space industry and regional companies. For almost 60 years, the CSL has been developing advanced technologies in optics, electronics, mechanics and thermics.
As a world-renowned center of expertise, the CSL collaborates with numerous European and international institutions (ESA, CNES, Thales Alenia Space, Belgospace, NASA, JAXA, ISRO, KARI, Airbus Defense and Space, FEDER, Wallonie, BELSPO, Wallonie Espace, etc.) and works on the continuous development of its performances in order to prepare for the evolutions of the space industry and to remain a key partner in space instrumentation and associated calibration, as well as in the value chain of space data processing.
Polytechnic University of Catalonia
The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech (UPC) is a public research and higher education institution in the fields of engineering, architecture, science and technology, and one of Europe’s leading technical universities.
To contribute to building a sustainable and equitable world through research, technology transfer and the dissemination of knowledge, and by training graduates in engineering, architecture, science and technology capable of thinking critically, working in interdisciplinary and multicultural teams, adapting to change and continuing to learn throughout their lives.