Video interview of Yannick Combet on Thales Alenia Space's booth at Paris Air Show

TYVA Energie has participated to the 2023 International Paris Air Show (SIAE). During the exhibition, we have interviewed Yannick Combet, Stratobus Program Manager from Thales Alenia Space.

Learn more about the collaboration between Thales Alenia Space and TYVA Energie through this video interview about Stratobus, a colossal stratospheric airship project powered with TYVA Energie’s lithium batteries.

Play Video about Miniature Interview Thales Alenia Space EN

Introduce yourself

I am Yannick Combet and I am currently working at Thales Alenia Space as Stratobus Program Manager.

Can you tell us more about Stratobus?

Stratobus is the development of a large format airship with a 140 meters length and a 32 meters diameter. Stratobus’ objective is to embark 250 kg payloads into the stratosphere, approximately 20 km above the ground, and to stay static over a spot for a relatively long period of 1 year ideally.

It is a long-term project, how is taking place its implementation?

Yes, we truly started the development in 2016. We have been through a feasibility phase for 4 to 5 years which was successful: we managed to prove the feasibility combined with robustness. Then we switched to a phase that just came to an end regarding the search for financing. It was concretized with the gain of a European contract which now leads us toward the development of reduced scale demonstrators.

What are the challenges for such a large scaled project?

First of all, Stratobus is a technological challenge because we must create a high-performance system gathering every technology we have been working on. The mass goal is really ambitious since we target 8 tones for these volumes, which is a really challenging objective to reach. We also have strategic issues since we have a large variety of missions to cover and a lot of interested customers. Thus, we bind technology, system aspects and mission aspects all at once.

How where you able to bring your experience to answer Stratobus’ energy issues?

It is amusing because Stratobus is an energy system. The energy part is extremely important since we must struggle against winds. We need to be very performing and to limit costs all at once.

The battery is also extremely important since it is a main mass contributor for the project so we handle the batteries’ performances very carefully.

I have a quite useful background since I have worked on satellites’ solar generators for a long time, for high performances with very ambitious mass objectives. It helped me with the whole Stratobus’ energy system implementation.

Yannick COMBET
Stratobus Program Manager at Thales Alenia Space

What are the remaining challenges of the project?

Regarding the technological aspect, we are still dealing with a maturing phase on the envelope part. There is also the energy system we must manage to put together. We haven’t realized a true scale model yet: there is the solar generator on one side, TYVA Energie’s batteries on the other side as well as power electronics, etc. We must manage to make it work all together. After that, there is a significant operational demonstration phase since we must also prove our capability to operate such a huge engine.

Which stage of Stratobus project are you currently dealing with?

We have started a while ago and we are now switching on a demonstration phase. Our goal is to create two demonstrators that will fly above the Canary Islands from 2025 for the first one and 2026 for the second one. We are going to achieve a few operations with two types of payloads that we will embark on the second engine. We are currently running the development of a really industrial project with a pretty harsh schedule.

Are you confident about the project’s outcome?

It is true that the technological challenge was colossal at first. We really managed to fulfil this part until now. Then, we had to switch to the financial challenge to secure funding for the upcoming developments. It wasn’t an easy task because budgets are quite important. The European Commission has helped us, as well as the French Directorate General of Armament (DGA).

Now we are beginning a demonstration phase. Thus, we don’t aim to realize a fully operational engine, we are going to learn from this demonstration and then we will switch to the true scale model. We have layered the development because we want to be sure to get through it.

I am quite optimistic because there is a really good technical team, great suppliers and nice partners. We think that we have everything we need to reach our objective.

Yannick COMBET
Stratobus Program Manager at Thales Alenia Space

What can we wish you for the next upcoming events?

We wish to hold the schedule as much as we can, avoid delay and make it work. We will truly be satisfied when the demonstrators will fly. We also count on TYVA Energie to support us!

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