New horizon for space transportation services
13 November 2018
ESA reaches out to encourage open innovation and offer support. A global response to ESA’s call for ideas on new space transportation services has resulted in 79 proposals of which 41 were considered eligible for expert advice from ESA.
This call for ideas is part of an overall initiative within ESA to provide tools necessary to identify and promote innovation within the European space sector – such as ESA’s Open Innovation Platform.
Proposed services include new technologies for space transportation systems, microlaunchers, multi-user spaceports, satellite deorbiting, and propulsive systems for microlauncher upper stages and in-space orbit raising. All these ideas complement existing ESA space transportation programmes and activities.
Proposals came from all over the world. ESA suppliers, enterprises not previously related to ESA, known start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises, students, research institutes, and private individuals applied.
Though most entities came from ESA Member States, a third came from Member States not currently taking part in ESA Space Transportation programmes, signalling a growing private commercial interest in space transportation across Europe.
The ESA Expert Team will give feedback on all eligible ideas, including details of the assessment, the idea’s potential impact in the space domain, strong points, and areas needing additional work and recommended next steps.
Each proposal is assessed on its commercial viability, whether it is technically feasible, and on its potential contribution to the development of European commercial space transportation services and the competitiveness of the European space sector in general.
The ESA team includes experts from ESA’s Space Transportation directorate as well as technology and business specialists from across ESA. Additional ESA subject experts will advise on specific topics – such as elements relating to Earth Observation supported by ESA’s ɸ-lab.
In the next two weeks, ESA will select three winners who will experience a launch at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
Some contestants will be put in contact with relevant ESA Business Incubation Centres.
ESA has also already offered several entrants a recommendation to the European Investment Bank (EIB) as pilot projects for their “Growth finance facility”. This is the first step in a planned longer-term collaboration between ESA and the EIB, to establish funding tools for promising commercial space ideas in Europe.
Through this process, ESA has gathered valuable input on commercial space transportation proposals in Europe. This will help ESA to establish the support such ideas need to become fully operational and commercially successful systems.