The European space agency Esa has commissioned a German and an Italian company to develop a new kind of freighter for space. The Exploration Company, based in Planegg near Munich, and the Italian group Thales Alenia Space are each to design a spacecraft that can bring cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and back to Earth by 2028. Esa announced this at a summit in Brussels.

The vehicles could also be used for other space stations or could later be further developed for manned space travel. The two companies will each receive 25 million euros for the development.

Last fall, Esa launched a competition between European companies to develop such a cargo vehicle. Seven companies applied, including both established companies and start-ups.

The US space agency Nasa can already deliver cargo to the ISS and bring it back to Earth through partnerships with the companies SpaceX and Northrop Grumman. Esa is hoping to be able to use a European cargo vehicle to transport cargo in the future, for example in return for transporting European astronauts into space.

At the summit in Brussels, Germany and eleven other ESA member states joined the space agency’s efforts to prevent space debris. They signed a charter that should lead to the complete avoidance of residues in space and significantly limit the creation of waste in the orbits of the Earth and the Moon by 2030.