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Aeronautics and space

Continuously striving to expand the frontiers of human exploration, aeronautics and space research have played a central role in driving technological progress. Over the years, solutions to previous space-related challenges have yielded numerous spin-off technologies that have now become integral parts of our everyday lives. However, as we venture further into space, new complex problems emerge that demand innovative solutions, encompassing a wide range of aspects. Technological hurdles, such as improving materials, propulsion systems and communication networks for long-duration missions are ongoing research areas. Human space exploration also poses  unique questions, related to the health effects of space travel, resource utilisation, and logistical complexities associated with extended missions. Furthermore, space  debris management remains a pressing concern, as the number of satellites and debris in orbit increases, endangering operational spacecraft and hindering future  missions. Closer to home, aeronautical research also faces its own unique set of challenges in advancing aviation capabilities. Enhancing aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, reducing noise pollution, ensuring safety and reliability, and integrating autonomous systems are ongoing priorities.

Back to the Université Paris-Saclay Scientific framework

Addressing these challenges requires interdisciplinary collaboration, cutting-edge technologies, and a commitment to improving the efficiency, safety, and sustainability of air transportation. Beyond that, it is also crucial to find a responsible approach to these issues, taking into account the environmental, ethical, and legal aspects. Balancing the pursuit of scientific discovery and technological advancement with considerations of sustainability, responsible use of resources, and international cooperation will be critical to the future of aeronautics and space exploration.

With a diverse range of expertise and multidisciplinary collaboration at its core, Université Paris-Saclay is at the forefront of tackling the challenges presented by aeronautics and space exploration. Leveraging its rich tradition of space research, advanced capabilities in astronomy, astrophysics, and fluid mechanics, as well as a strong emphasis on digital science and legal considerations, the university is poised to drive scientific advancements, develop cutting-edge instruments, address issues of life’s origins, and navigate the evolving legal landscape of outer space exploration.


Université Paris-Saclay has accumulated a great deal to address these challenges:

  • Université Paris-Saclay presents a long space research tradition, encompassing domains from astronomy, and earth & planetary observation to theoretical physics.
  • The strong multidisciplinarity and integration between disciplines of excellence at Université Paris-Saclay, such as astrophysics, particle physics and nuclear physics, enables us to carry out original, leading-edge space research, for example using multi-messenger and multi-wavelength approaches.
  • Université Paris-Saclay’s important participation in international collaborative projects and networks both displays its recognition and maximises the impact of its research.
  • The creation of relevant resources allows the Université Paris-Saclay to efficiently address the rapid evolution of the sector, with its ever-increasing volume of data and complexity of systems.
  • The creation of the Université Paris-Saclay Space Science Centre illustrates that effort and promotes multidisciplinary actions to meet new challenges linked to space research evolution, focusing on future instrumentation, data analysis, and developments related to the New Space.
  • Finally, in order to tackle issues going beyond the scope of the sole technological challenges of space research, Université Paris-Saclay promotes broader interdisciplinary approaches and fosters collaborations, not only between physicists and engineers, but also with chemists, biologists, as well as specialists of law, economics and geopolitics.


Extending our understanding of astroparticles, nuclear astrophysics and cosmology. At the basis of Université Paris-Saclay’s contribution to spatial exploration lie  outstanding capacities in astronomy and astrophysics. Researchers from Université Paris-Saclay are collaborating with international colleagues to explore some of the most violent events in the cosmos and to identify the origins of cosmic rays. Additionally, they are delving into the birth and evolution of the universe, investigating the mystery of dark matter and dark energy, and aiming to comprehend nucleosynthesis. Research teams at Université Paris-Saclay have for instance played an important role in the discovery of gravitational waves through the development of the VIRGO interferometer and are engaged in the development of the new generation of instruments, following the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructure. The scientific axes pursued at Université Paris-Saclay thus cover all the major open issues in today’s fundamental research in astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology; understanding the process which led to the formation and evolution of the solar system, studying the origins and evolution of stars, or galaxy formation, understanding extreme conditions in the Universe.

Understanding the origin of life and developing exobiology. The question of the origins of life and diversity of life forms generates intense social interest and is amongst those explored at Université Paris-Saclay. Approaches vary from the understanding of the conditions of habitability of a planetary environment, and the conditions of emergence of life, by studying the planets of the solar system as well as exoplanets. Teams at Université Paris-Saclay are at the forefront of tackling this challenge with multidisciplinary contributions from our specialist laboratories in both chemistry and planetary geomorphology approaches.

Making the most of fluid mechanics for aeronautical engineering. Going from existential concerns to domains with more immediate industrial applications, the community of physicists and engineers of Université Paris-Saclay counts with strong expertise in the domain of fluid mechanics, with the capacity to characterise the deformation and evolution of matters under its forms solid, liquid, gas or plasma. Our capacities at modelling, experimenting and simulating are directly relevant for aeronautics and spatial explorations. They are being reinforced by recent advances in conception and design methods (such as 3D printing), which enable them to quickly obtain materials with new mechanical properties and functions. Most of our work is carried out in partnership with industry, in laboratory networks, in national or European projects or in international cooperation. Strong links have been forged with industrial partners around targeted issues such as energy, transport or civil engineering. These industrial partnerships play a key role in the dynamics of research and in training through research.

Creating the next generation of instruments and observational methods. Research in astronomy and space has always been deeply dependent on the advancement of observational devices and methods. The capacity of our teams to articulate instrumentation, observation, theory, modelling, simulation and lab experiments is a key asset at Université Paris-Saclay. Our involvement in large spatial projects feeds directly into the structuration of science and technological development. Our contribution in the development of large international instruments and platforms also relies on our large community of experimental physicists able to design new instruments. For example, at the interface of physics and engineering, our expertise in the field of (nano)photonics covers the whole chain for instrumentation - including signal emission, propagation, detection, treatment and conversion,- in wavelengths going from X-rays to microwaves. High resolution sensors are being developed for astrophysics, as well as for other fields from geosciences to biology. Our capabilities in the domain of spectroscopy are of specific relevance here, with the capacity to develop ad-hoc tools for studying chemical reactions in the atmospheres of planets and their satellites.

Developing digital tools and approaches. Aeronautics and space is another major challenge where Université Paris-Saclay’s strengths in digital science and  mathematical modelling supports scientific advances. ad hoc data centres have been developed for specific needs, such as in-flight operations. As an example, we are particularly interested in the development of advanced methods for storage and secure treatment for the massive data generated by spatial exploration, as well as in the verification of softwares for in-vehicle systems.

Next to observations, digital simulations are taking a growing importance with the development of massively parallel computers: the volume of data generated through simulation is now similar to that of observation data, and is proving decisive to advance understanding in domains as varied as galaxy evolution, star formation, magnetic, protoplanetary disks, star winds, star-planet interactions, etc. Digital simulation is equally important for aeronautics development, as digital simulation replaces wind-tunnel testing for plane design.

Finally, digital tools are playing a central role in the development of 4.0 aeronautics, in particular in further automation processes used for flight technology, from security processes to the development of advanced avionics and “fly-by-wire” flight control systems.

Legal approaches to keep pace with spatial exploration. As our capacity to understand, reach and exploit outer space grows, so do the accompanying legal and regulatory challenges. Teams of legal and geopolitical experts at Université Paris-Saclay are actively engaged in expanding our regulatory capacity to include both terrestrial and extraterrestrial space by collaborating with international organisations and examining common natural assets in the context of legal systems.


Exotrail is an end-to-end space mobility operator. Their mission is to enable small satellites to move in space, optimise their deployment, increase their service performance, and reduce space pollution.

A combination of factors and expertise resulted in the creation of the startup in 2017. The thrusters that Exotrail develops for small satellites enable the satellites to optimise their orbits, increase their performance, avoid collisions and return to the atmosphere at the end of their life so as not to pollute space. Until quite recently, only large  satellites incorporated thrusters using Hall-effect technology. Now, it is also possible for small satellites thanks to the miniature thrusters created by Exotrail.

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