Access to space is an indispensable element of the entire value chain of space and has been recognised as an area of strategic importance towards the direction of Europe's non-dependence.
Access to space is a matter of security of supply, industry capability and technology readiness and a sine qua non condition of the modern space knowledge-based economies. Only a handful of space-faring countries master this capability as a result of extensive institutional funding for research and development costs and the guarantee of services exploitation. Europe has achieved its remarkable position in this field thanks to national programmes and the programmes of the European Space Agency ESA, Access to Space being one fundamental origin of its own creation in 1975.
The Space Strategy for Europe has confirmed that Europe shall maintain autonomous, reliable and cost-effective access to space. It underlined that it is crucial that Europe continues to have modern, efficient and flexible launch, production and test infrastructure facilities.
Cost reduction and improving flexibility of launch systems are the main challenges in order to foster European industry competitiveness on the global market.
The industry 4.0 transformational wave is likely to bring opportunities for innovative concepts lowering the cost of space launch manufacturing/integration/testing/operations and further improving quality.
Each proposal shall address only one of the following two sub-topics:
a) Innovative concepts for low cost launch system and services for mini-, micro-, nano-satellites and cubesats: with an aim at further increasing launch frequency and lowering launch costs including for those satellites with dedicated orbit requirements (e.g. precise orbital insertion for nano-cubesat satellites), for the worldwide commercial market,. They shall seek coherence and complementarity with on-going ESA initiatives. Proposals could include for instance, upper stage related technologies (e.g. disruptive technologies for upper stage low thrust / high Specific Impulse / green propellant engine, avionic miniaturisation, standard dispensers) and the identification of advanced low cost materials.
b) Launch system advanced manufacturing (e.g. tooling and machines) and modern infrastructures (including ground infrastructures for low cost European launch sites for mini, micro nano satellite launch system): Activities shall address manufacturing technologies and processes such as integrated supply chain, integrated European manufacturing flow (global use of digital mock-up within extended enterprise), digitalisation standardisation applied to space (space related data exchange, harmonisation of process, cloud centric exchange of data), remote control capacities useful to all European actors (satellites industrialists, launch pads, rocket propulsion test centres and launcher industrialists) and competences capitalization in support of digital training (shared space curricula supported by numeric know-how capture) as well as advanced assembly, integration and testing, including small, mini, micro satellite launch systems.
The proposed solutions to be considered will take into account the possible evolutions of the regulatory framework, in particular REACH, and will also take into account the environmental impacts and health risks.
These activities shall consist of research, innovation and development work which can be readily integrated within current and planned European launch infrastructures. A preliminary implementation, operational and total investment plan shall be included in the proposal and detailed during the action.
For each topic, activities shall be complementary with other European activities in the same domain.
Proposals shall include an analysis of relevant roadmaps at European level.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 2 and 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
- Contribution to the maturing of technologies to Launch Systems/services for small satellites in dedicated orbits and with a strong focus on cost reduction and launch rate flexibility;
- Innovative use of current Launcher technologies for mini-, micro-launchers, and associated ground segment solutions that will contribute to pursue and facilitate, in the short-term, extreme low-cost launch services for the worldwide market of small satellites and constellations, thus enabling also private initiatives to build viable business cases based on such technologies;
- Improve business performance of European space start-ups/scale-ups (e.g. via precise deployment of their space asset and reduction of time required to have the constellation fully operational).
- Increase compliance with the evolutions of the normative regulatory framework, in particular REACH;
- Improved quality and safety control solutions, which are absolutely fundamental in rocketry, within three to five years;
- Supply chain efficiency applied to space launch manufacturing, integration and operations thanks to research and innovation data exchange architecture taking into account the evolution of the normative framework and environmental impacts.
- Improved workforce competence management and European top-class space curricula.
Illustration Photo: First qbee satellite from Open Cosmos, the qb01 currently in orbit. Open Cosmos is a start-up from ESA Business incubation Centre (ESA BIC) Harwell providing a one-stop-shop to put a nanosatellite in orbit. Copyright Open Cosmos