Partners for Space Exploration

The relationship between ESA and industry is evolving. The current ecosystem of ‘Space 4.0’ fosters the transition from a government-run laboratory in orbit to a commercially driven human and robotic spaceflight economy.

This step-wise approach is nurturing new commercial services led by European private companies. These services strengthen the competitiveness of the space and non-space industrial base, stimulate R&D, and integrate innovative solutions into ESA space exploration missions.

ESA acts as a business partner, and sometimes customer, in commercial partnerships for competitive services or products. ESA offers technical support and reviews, access to ESA expertise and facilities, and co-funded technology development.

All partnership proposals address the interests of ESA Member States and offer opportunities for industry and the user community.

ESA’s commercial partnerships leverage European private sector initiatives to facilitate exploration ambitions. This promotes a broader utilisation of the International Space Station for world-class science and also fosters open technology innovation that could boost future ESA missions to the Moon and Mars.

Ice Cubes in Columbus mockupAccess the image

A good example is the ICE Cubes service, the first commercial European opportunity to conduct research in space. This pioneering agreement signed between ESA and Space Applications Services offers room to run experiments and conduct research in weightlessness inside ESA’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. To be launched in early 2018, the service will provide rapid and simplified access to the station on a commercial basis. For the first time, ICE Cubes users will be able to interact with their experiment directly from their home desks.

Space Exploration strategy

David Parker, Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic ExplorationAccess the image

ESA aims to establish marketable space exploration initiatives and to boost socio-economic growth, job creation and added welfare.

“Commercial partnership will play a growing role in the exciting ESA vision for space exploration,” commented David Parker, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration.

“ESA intends to stimulate private sector engagement in space exploration and foster innovative and inspiring approaches for ISS services and utilisation and future ESA missions.”

ESA is exploring opportunities for leveraging on innovative funding sources, such as crowd funding, sponsorship and prize schemes. Brainstorming activities with space and non-space actors are defining potential ways forward.

Call for proposals

ISS and beyond Call for ideas: Space exploration as driver for growth & competitiveness
A unique opportunity for the private sector to shape and engage as a strategic partner in the future global space exploration undertaking. ESA is looking into novel ways to partner with the private sector and facilitate the realisation of European exploration ambitions.
Closing date: Always open
Post-ISS Co-funded studies on platforms and facilities in low Earth orbit
As the operational life of the International Space Station comes to an end in the next decade, new partners are welcome to work on orbital infrastructures and transportation for affordable research and novel applications.
Closing date: Always open 
Lunar missions Lunar ISRU Demonstration mission definition study
In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) involves the extraction and processing of local resources into useful products such as water and oxygen. ESA is looking into lunar mission concepts to break explorers’ reliance on Earth supplies.  ESA wants to leverage on existing private sector investment.
Opening date: September 2017

Upcoming events

ESA Grand Challenge Open call
The ESA Grand Challenge is a contest aimed at creating a new European ecosystem of entrepreneurs and start-up companies competing to develop solutions that address complex problems.

Contact us

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