About the General Support Technology Programme (GSTP)
In the frame of the General Support Technology Programme (GSTP), European space industry develops top-notch space technologies that enable amazing missions to discover the Universe, understand our environment, navigate, educate and save lives. GSTP has demonstrated itself as a key and successful programme, recognised by the Participating States as one of the best instruments in ESA to promote innovation, enable National and ESA missions and strengthen the competitiveness of European industry.
What is it?
GSTP exists to:
- Enable missions of ESA and national programmes by developing technology.
- Foster innovation by creating new products.
- Strengthen the competitiveness of European industry.
- Improve European technological non-dependence and the availability of European sources for critical technologies.
- Facilitate spin-in from outside the space sector.
ESA's General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) mission is to convert promising engineering concepts into a broad spectrum of mature products – everything from individual components to subsystems up to complete satellites – right up to the brink of spaceflight or beyond.
This is achieved through the development of engineering models or 'breadboards' whose space-worthiness can be verified not only in the lab but also within the less forgiving environment of ESTEC's set of simulators – including exposure to acceleration, temperature or radiation extremes – and increasingly all the way up to orbit on demonstration missions.
The GSTP also includes work on product and process improvements, aiming for a flexible response to the needs of ESA programmes, Member States and European industry, and growing the number of European-made space-qualified parts made commercially available.
Why is it needed?
The GSTP functions to bridge the gap between having a technology proven in fundamental terms and making it ready for ESA and national programmes, the open market and space itself.
Often subject of this programme are technologies that have gone through the TRP process. It also responds to requests from industry for technical support and evaluation of products mid-way through development. Operating in space being hard enough, mission planners seek to minimise their risk exposure as much as possible. So, a novel technology is only chanced to fly once it has been judged 'mature' – that is, the uncertainty about it has been pared down to acceptable levels.
The GSTP aims at maturing technologies and developing products, involving performance testing in all conceivable scenarios, until the level of confidence associated with it becomes sufficiently high for comfort – and its risk factor reduces correspondingly.
How is the GSTP implemented?
The GSTP is an optional ESA programme, open for ESA Member States (including Canada as an associate member) to choose whether or not to participate and at what level. GSTP activities cover all ESA domains plus Generic Technologies, excepting Telecommunications which has its own ARTES programme.
The GSTP has been in operation for more than two decades. The current GSTP-6 (2012 – 2017) operates on a five-year work plan and is based around four programme elements, organised on a voluntary basis.
The GSTP work plan originates in a similar way to that of the TRP. The ESA Technology Network (TECNET) working groups prepare a draft with reference to the ESA Long Term plan.
It is then approved by representatives of Participating Member States, prioritising issues that fit with their own industrial strategies.
What benefits does it deliver?
During more than two decades, the GSTP has successfully bridged the gap between having a technology proven in fundamental terms and making it ready for ESA and National Programmes, the open market and, eventually, Space itself. Some good examples are:
- LEON family of microprocessors flown in AlphaSat and selected for the Sentinels.
- Technology predevelopment done for the CFRP reflector of the Plank Telescope.
- GPS POD instrument baseline in the Sentinels and Earth Care missions.
- MEMS rate sensor flying in Cryosat 2, the 1N “green” thruster in PRISMA.
- APS development that led to the lightweight Star Tracker in BepiColombo or the hybrid low cost magnetometer in ADM-Aeolus.
It is also worth to mention is the Thrust Vector Control system flown in our small European Launcher VEGA or the Human Spaceflight related activities which are also an integral part of the GSTP like the gas monitor Anita, the Melissa project and the Point of Care Diagnosis and other health monitoring devices for astronauts.
In the GSTP, technology concepts are transformed into engineering models and then converted into a broad spectrum of mature products–everything from individual components, to subsystems, up to complete satellites. The GSTP also offers flight opportunities to demonstrate technology or new concepts via PROBA (PRoject for OnBoard Autonomy) or other flight opportunities. Examples include the PROBA-V designed for global environmental and agricultural monitoring, the SMOS Instrument MIRAS or the technologies demonstrated on-board the ISS like the Automated Identification System (AIS). Another example is PROBA-3, the first precision formation flying mission.
Always looking ahead, the GSTP is now helping to prepare the future of space: green propulsion, advanced manufacturing, Clean Space, electric propulsion, Big Data, Ka-Band for data downlinks. EGS-CC, etc. These are only some of the new challenges being addressed by GSTP that will enable the European missions of the future.
How to participate
Contracts are awarded based on national support, with the Participating States informing the Agency of any activities they wish to support prior to an Invitation To Tender being issued.
Procurement generally occurs competitively on a 100% funding basis, although up to 50% or 75% ESA co-funding is possible in non-competitive tenders (mainly GSTP 6 Element 2).
GSTP Invitations for Tender are issued regularly on ESA’s EMITS website, which requires registration for access.