The challenge is to develop a European technologically non-dependent solution for launching light satellites into Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), which will enable dedicated low-cost launches with committed schedule and orbit.
The solution needs to be innovative, implementable, affordable in development and exploitation phases, and commercially viable. Applicants are required to take a holistic approach and produce results that move beyond (but are complementary to) existing solutions. Moreover, the solution will enhance on European access to space and associated technological non-dependence and thereby will provide strategic and competitive advantages for European companies, SMEs, universities, and research organisations.
Space technologies, data and services have become indispensable to the daily lives of European citizens. Moreover, development of space technology boosts jobs, growth, and investments in Europe and strengthens its role in the world. Space solutions can help Europe to respond better to new global and societal challenges: climate change, disaster management, security threats, migration, farming, transport, energy, and many more.
While Europe has a world-class space sector, innovation in space and changing demands are leading to an increased appearance of light and agile satellites. Consequently, space solutions will increasingly consider this trend. Small satellites are well-suited for most kinds of institutional and commercial use: wireless communications networks, Internet services, broader connectivity, scientific observation, data gathering, Earth imaging, and positioning. In terms of size, light satellites rely on a lower mass in comparison with conventional satellites. Their production is more cost-effective due to series manufacturing, agility and flexibility in operations. However, light satellites will also lead to an exponential increase in launch needs by 2020-2025.
Launch opportunities in Europe for this type of satellites are currently being standardised through auxiliary payload or rideshare solutions on the European launcher fleet. However, according to market studies, light satellites are expected to lead to a significant increase in launch needs by 2020-2025.
An established service for regular launches dedicated to small satellites will contribute to achieve the following goals:
- internal market growth in the manufacturing sector of small launchers and satellites and the downstream services sector;
- European leading position in export markets globally in the field of light satellites and small launchers;
- space-enabled seamless solutions for European citizens thanks to operational light satellites and small launchers.
The specific rules of the contest will be published in the fourth quarter of 2017 by the European Commission, which will directly launch and manage the contest and award the prize based on the judgement of independent experts. 
European low-cost access to space infrastructure and services solution dedicated to light satellites.
 Class 1 (mini sats): 200.1Kg – 400Kg, Class 2 (micro sats): 60.1Kg – 200Kg, Class 3 (nano sats, including 12U+): 25.1Kg – 60Kg, Class 4 (cubesats, including 1U, 3U, 6U): 1Kg – 25Kg.
 A pre-selection phase may be done by Commission services in case of numerous applications received.
Illustration Photo: Spain’s PLD Space, Miura 5 microlauncher (formerly Arion 2) aims to provide dedicated launches for an emerging small satellites market in 2021. Recognised as one of Europe’s most advanced microlauncher projects, PLD Space already intends to offer sub-orbital flight opportunities on its “Miura 1” (formerly Arion 1) launcher in 2019. Copyright PLD Space