Press Release

Discovery and competitiveness: the keywords in Europe’s policies and programmes for space

By SpaceRef Editor
December 1, 2005
Filed under ,
Discovery and competitiveness: the keywords in Europe’s policies and programmes for space

Objectives and priorities for Europe in space will soon be discussed at a Ministerial meeting in Berlin. On 5 and 6 December, the Ministers in charge of space activities within the 17 ESA Member States and Canada will meet in Berlin to deliberate on a plan for discovery and competitiveness for Europe in space, and to decide on the relevant future programmes.

Space has become a common feature of all our daily lives, while still leaving room for discovery and dreams. In Europe alone, ESA has marked 30 years of great achievements. In parallel, space has risen up the political agenda, and the European Community has increased its interest in space as an instrument for its policies. This takes place in a challenging and difficult commercial and industrial context, with strong competition stressing the need for increased competitiveness.

Ministers will therefore be invited to take decisions that will provide Europe and its citizens with a competitive space sector able to lead the search for new discoveries, guarantee access to strategic data and new services, and consolidate its share of the worldwide commercial market.

With that aim in mind, they will be invited to decide on the continuation of programmes in Space and Earth sciences, but also regarding launchers, Europe’s contribution to the International Space Station, and telecommunications; they will also be asked to embark on new activities, most notably a system for Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), space exploration, in particular with an exploration mission to Mars, and new technology programmes, especially in the fields of telecommunications, future launchers and in-orbit demonstrations.

These programmes taken together constitute a coherent set of activities, from launchers to satellites, from technology to development and from science to applications. The flexibility provided by optional programmes, which allows Member States to reflect their varying levels of interest in each individual programme, has to remain consistent with the coherence between the different programmes and activities. Only this way is it possible to meet the general objectives set for an efficient and successful European Space Policy.

Global background

Since 2000, the commercial market for space has experienced a sharp decline, while, at the same time, public spending has increased in the USA, Russia, China and India. A significant revision of US space policy has recently taken place, focusing on two priorities: space exploration, with emphasis on a human mission to the Moon from 2018 onwards; and space in support of homeland security and defence. This revision is associated with an increase in budgets both for NASA ($16 bn in 2004) and for the Department of Defense ($18.6 bn in 2004).

Russia is still launching more spacecraft than any other space power in the world. Its space budget is increasing and Russia is looking to forge alliances with other space powers, in particular with Europe.

Space activities are booming in China and India. China has achieved mastery of all space technologies, including human spaceflight, and is developing a number of scientific and application satellites for Earth observation, telecommunications and navigation. India is already at the leading edge of environment monitoring and has developed a large variety of services, in particular for education.

ESA and the EU: the building-up of a European space policy

In recent years, ESA and the EU have established a closer relationship. In May 2004, a Framework Agreement between the European Community and ESA entered into force and a “Space Council” (a joint and concomitant meeting of the ESA Council at ministerial level and of the Council of the European Union) has already convened twice, in November 2004 and in June 2005, and is scheduled to meet again on 28 November 2005.

Exploration of space, as well as the basic tools on which all space activities depend, i.e. access to space/launchers, scientific knowledge and space technologies, shall continue to be driven by ESA and its Member States. The use of space systems and infrastructures to deliver services for citizens, society and markets, such as telecommunications, navigation and positioning, meteorology, environmental monitoring, should increasingly become also a responsibility of the European Union. However, due to the current political and budget situation of the European Union, the implementation of the first steps of the European Space Policy will be slower than was expected at the time of the first Space Council.

Objectives and priorities for the ESA Council at ministerial level of December 2005

The Space Councils have emphasized that space systems and infrastructures have become strategic assets for Europe to act as a global player on the international scene. The objective for the overall European Space Policy and Programme is thus to make sure that Europe makes full use of space technologies, infrastructures and services in support for its policies and objectives. Furthermore, European security policy is developing rapidly, and space-based systems allowing situation awareness and reaction capability are expected to play a substantial role in this policy.

According to the roles and responsibilities defined in the preliminary elements of this European Space Policy, ESA and its Member States drive space exploration, science, access to space, space technologies, and the relevant basic infrastructure, and support the technological preparation and validation of space systems responding to user needs, including those relevant to EU policies.

The Member States of ESA have expressed consensus on the following objectives:

  • completion of approved programmes and their necessary continuation,
  • the importance of science, in particular Space and Earth science,
  • the need to start new activities on:
    • Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), to define and develop the necessary space component to ensure data continuity for existing services and to enable definition, preparation and operational capabilities for the new ones,
    • exploration, with strong support for a robotic mission to Mars, also including preparatory activities for future exploration missions,
    • technology, according to a Technology Strategy and Long-Term Plan, coordinated and harmonised at European level, including telecommunication technologies and application demonstrations, future launcher technologies, new system concepts and relevant security elements.

Further decisions will be necessary at the beginning of 2008, when ESA’s Columbus laboratory will have been launched to the ISS, NASA exploration architecture consolidated and funded, and EU political and budget uncertainties cleared up. At that stage, decisions will be confirmed, in particular on ISS relevant programmes, exploration preparation activities, Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, and launcher scenarios.

The 2008 milestone will also be used to consolidate new activities which require preparatory activities before full development can be decided. This is the case in particular for new and advanced technology programmes, including the preparation of activities of strategic interest for Europe and to which the European Commission could contribute in the future. As for GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) Evolution (i.e. the “post Galileo” era), a specific programme shall be proposed for decision in the course of 2006.

A. Science and Basic activities: the Level of Resources 2006-2010
ESA programmes are split into two areas: Mandatory Activities and Optional Programmes.

The Mandatory Activities at ESA consist of the Scientific Programme and the Basic Activities (General Studies, Technology Research, Technology Transfer Programme and Earthnet, Education and Corporate/Administrative activities). They are implemented in 5-year funding slices. The next period is planned for 2006-2010, and decision on the following slice is to be taken before the end of the 3rd year.

ESA’s Mandatory Activities are also the backbone of the Agency, building a highly skilled staff in science, technology, spacecraft operations, which are essential to the successful performance of ESA’s optional programmes. All the Member States contribute to the Mandatory Activities on a scale based on national income.

The Optional Programmes cover areas such as Earth observation, telecommunications, satellite navigation, space transportation systems (launchers), human spaceflight, microgravity and exploration. Member States are free to decide whether or not to participate, as well as the level of their financial involvement.

A1. The Space Science Programme

European scientists have selected the scientific questions to be addressed in the long term by the Scientific Programme. They are collected in a coherent science and technology plan: “Cosmic Vision”. Cosmic Vision, from now until 2025, addresses four main questions which are essential if we are to understand the Universe and our place in it. Answers to these questions will be approached by addressing specific aspects of each general theme. The Science Programme missions already implemented or under implementation, and which contribute to the main themes and sub-themes, are also listed.

    1. What are the conditions for life and planetary formation?
    1.1 From gas and dust to stars and planets (ISO, HST, Herschel, Astro-F)
    1.2 From exo-planets to bio-markers (Hipparcos, GAIA, Corot)
    1.3 Life and habitability in the Solar System (all Solar system missions, in particular Giotto, Huygens, Cluster, Mars-Express, Rosetta, Double Star, Venus Express, BepiColombo)

    2. How does the Solar System work?
    2.1 From the Sun to the edge of the Solar System (Ulysses, SOHO, Cluster, Double Star, Solar-B, Solar Orbiter)
    2.2 The building blocks of the Solar System (Giotto, Rosetta, SMART-1, Chandrayaan-1 and planetary missions)

    3.What are the fundamental laws of the Universe?
    3.1 Exploring the limits of contemporary physics (Microscope)
    3.2 The gravitational wave Universe (LISA PF, LISA)
    3.3 Matter under extreme conditions (HST, JWST, Newton, Integral)

    4. How did the Universe originate and what is it made of?
    4.1 The early Universe (Planck)
    4.2 The Universe taking shape (Planck, HST, JWST)
    4.3 The evolving violent Universe (HST, JWST, Newton, Integral)

Thus, the set of themes is coherent with the present programme and forms its natural extension in the future.

The programme will move forward by asking for proposals for new missions. The timing of the issuance of the first call depends critically on the Level of Resources agreed by Member States at the Ministerial Council. If the buying power erosion started in 1995 is continued, a call for new proposals will be unlikely before 2008, unless major changes are made to the present programme.

International collaboration with non-European space agencies – including NASA and JAXA – is likely to be a key ingredient in the implementation of this programme. Russia, China and India are other partners, whose role is expected to increase in the future.

A2. Basic activities

In the forthcoming period (2006-2010), activities will concentrate on the following subjects:

The General Studies Programme (GSP) will, on the one hand, continue to support the established programme domains such as science, earth observation, launchers, telecommunication/navigation, human spaceflight and exploration to support their preparation in particular of future activities. On the other hand, it will support the emergence of new applications stemming from EC policies.

The Technology Research Programme (TRP) will concentrate on the development of technologies for the programme domains mentioned above and on the development of generic technologies useful across the various programme domains. Spin-in effects by using technologies developed outside the space sector (e.g. nanotechnologies) will also be stimulated.

The Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) will concentrate on creating more European Space Incubators in ESA establishments and Member States’ facilities in order to increase the number of start-ups using space technologies.

The Earthnet Programme, as a supporting element to the Earth Observation programme, will continue to concentrate on activities of a general nature such as the support of Third Party Missions, the development of multi-mission ground segment technologies and representation in international organisations and programmes.

Education Activities will concentrate on cooperation with ESA Member States with a view to developing space education offices, coordinating the creation of educational support material and provide projects for students and Young Graduates.

Corporate and Administrative activities will be focussed both on enhancing the management of the Agency as a corporate entity, and maintaining highly skilled technical staff. Networking/partnering will ensure more systematic cooperation between ESA and European laboratories and technical/research entities (in space and non-space).

B . Continuation of ongoing optional programmes
B1. Earth Observation programmes

The main thrusts of the third period of the Earth Observation Envelope Programme (EOEP-3) will be continuity with the previous periods and reinforced synergy with other ESA programmes dedicated to science, national programmes in Europe and international programmes.

The 3rd period will see the completion of the development of the EarthCARE satellite (part of the Earth Explorer core class with GOCE (2006) and ADM-Aeolus (2008), its launch in 2012 and operations. EarthCARE is aimed at improving the understanding of cloud-aerosol radiation interactions, so as to include them properly in climate and numerical weather prediction models.

A 7th Explorer mission will be selected, developed and launched, following the call for proposal issued in March 2005, and the study phase for the 8th Explorer will also be conducted.

The continuity of Envisat operations, for which the nominal funding will cease in 2006 and support from EOEP-2 in 2007, is also a priority in this period as more than 1000 teams of scientists are working with the data.

Preparatory activities for future Eumetsat programmes are included in this phase.

As part of the effort to raise the scientific return of the programme, specific support has been identified for the scientific exploitation of the Explorer missions and for making routinely available higher-level products, as identified and requested by the scientific community.

Cryosat-2, the replacement mission for Cryosat that ended into failure in October due to a problem with the launcher, will be funded by drawing resources both from EOEP-2 and EOEP-3.

B2. Telecommunications programmes

ARTES Programme Extension

The main purpose of this programme is to maintain and improve the capability and competitiveness of industry in the world satellite communications market. The ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) Programme is a continuous programme, carried out in successive periods. A programme extension in the time frame 2006-2010 is proposed, thus providing an overlap with the existing period and ensuring continuity of the programme. It is anticipated that the programme will take advantage of coordination with the European Community.

It is based on three major components:

I/ Telecommunications Systems, Equipment and Technology: preparing industry to enhance its competitiveness in the market, and to improve its industrial and technological capabilities. Thematic lines: Fixed Satellite Services/Broadcast Satellite Services; Broadband Multimedia Services; Mobile Satellite Services, Broadcast to Mobile Services; institutional (security/public infrastructure) services; satellite communication equipment and user terminals.

II/ Telecommunications Applications: relating to the needs of users, commercial or institutional, satellite-based solutions are often beyond the scope and capabilities, or even awareness, of many potential beneficiaries and require demonstration and promotion. Thematic areas: Internet on public transport; broadband access to consumer applications; interactive TV applications; automotive applications; civil protection applications; safety/security monitoring and control; telemedicine.

III/ Telecommunications Missions: beyond the current availability of commercial systems, there is a need to demonstrate and qualify new equipment and technology, to demonstrate and promote new systems and services (e.g. the Alphasat programme and the small GEO initiative, see section C2 under Proposal for new initiatives) and to provide infrastructure that allows the satisfaction of needs otherwise not attended to by the commercial market.

On top of these three major components, there remains the need to follow up the evolution of the market and to analyse new technology and the evolution of services and scenarios.

B3. Human spaceflight and Microgravity programmes

Continued European participation in the International Space Station (ISS) and activities in life and physical sciences and applications in space (using the ISS and other platforms) are covered by period 2 of the ISS Exploitation and ELIPS (European programme for Life and Physical Sciences and applications) programmes, as proposed to the December ministerial meeting. These two programmes will be implemented step by step in order to take into account the possible evolution of the ISS configuration and logistics scenario.

The ISS Exploitation programme: The main programme elements of Period 2 are: ATV production and operations, Columbus operations and sustaining engineering, payload integration and operations, and astronaut training, thereby providing the infrastructure for scientific and industrial users. The programme’s execution is influenced by overall ISS programme evolution, in particular by the launch date of Columbus and the overall ISS assembly and logistics scenario. The risks associated with this evolving situation are mitigated by limiting Period 2 to only four years (2005-2008), instead of five years as for Period 1, and by blocking parts of the budget until technical and programmatic milestones are achieved. In 2005, Ministers will decide on the commitments to be made in 2006 and 2007, while in 2008 they will be asked to decide on programme period 3 (2008-2012), covering commitments in 2008-2010.

The ELIPS programme is driven by life and physical sciences and applications, and contributes to the preparation of human space exploration. The ELIPS user scientific and industrial community is of the highest international quality and has doubled in the past few years.

The cornerstones in Life Sciences include biological research on the effects of gravity on processes in plant and animal cells, with numerous medical and biotechnological applications (immune system, food production, etc.). Human Physiology experiments address research on health problems such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases and equilibrium disorders. The research is also relevant to the preparation of long-duration space missions. Exobiology research addresses the fundamental question of the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the Universe. Physical sciences, material sciences and fluid physics address physical and chemical processes under weightlessness, with applications e.g. for the development of engines (aircraft, cars), fuel cells, or power plants.

B4. Launcher Programmes

Securing guaranteed access to space for Europe under affordable conditions (a), ensuring the availability of the necessary launch infrastructure at the CSG (b), and preparing for the future through new launcher developments (c) are overall objectives of a sustainable launcher programme.

a) Ariane 5 ECA has entered commercial exploitation and requires increasing operational flexibility. With a view to consolidating the Ariane-5 launcher for commercial use and to prepare for its further evolution, the Ariane-5 Consolidation and Evolution Preparation (ACEP) programme is proposed for implementation from 2006 to 2010.

In addition, it is proposed to extend the Ariane-5 ARTA (Ariane Research and Technology Accompaniment) programme for a timeframe of four years (2007-2010) in order to ensure that the Ariane-5 launch system, i.e. the launcher itself and its ground exploitation facilities, is maintained in a durable operational qualified status throughout the exploitation phase.

Encompassing continuous activities (sampling on production and tests, detailed analysis of each flight, solid-booster recovery and inspection, maintenance of test facilities and provision for propellants), one-off activities (analysis of anomalies, treatment of obsolescence and upgrade of ESA-owned exploitation facilities due to obsolescence and change of legislation) and complementary activities (non-planned industrial activities), the programme extension would be initiated in 2006 to ensure programme continuity.

b) The objective of the CSG Resolution is to continue to ensure funding by ESA Member States of the fixed costs of Europe’s spaceport for the 2006-2008 period, in order to maintain the launch range in permanent operational condition and guarantee its availability for the execution of ESA programmes and activities.

c) With a maiden flight scheduled for end 2007, Vega development has reached a mature stage and the launcher will have to prove its robustness, reliability and adaptation to the market.

As seen with the Ariane programme, preparing the exploitation of the new launcher is crucial in order to enhance its competitiveness and reliability. The Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment (VERTA) programme will focus on customer service improvements, specific mission and flexibility demonstration, system improvements and cost reduction, as well as basic exploitation accompaniment activities (launch system performances monitoring, detailed flight analysis and treatment of deviations). The programme also includes support to five demonstration flights that will serve to launch selected ESA payloads.

The proposed Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP), to be implemented from 2006 to 2009, focuses on the preparation of the Next Generation Launchers (NGL), and shall develop European technological capabilities enhancing the long-term competitiveness of European launchers. The FLPP programme will assist with the preparation of decisions in 2008 on the evolution of the launcher sector. Furthermore it permits the progressive restructuring of the launcher industrial sector and contributes to the safeguarding of necessary industrial R&D capabilities. Cooperation with Russia is also pursued.

C. Proposals for new activities

C1. Earth observation: GMES Space Component

The Space Council has confirmed Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) as the next European flagship in space. GMES serves two main European policy requirements:

a) Independent access to geo-spatial information for policy- and decision-makers in order to advance European and national agendas related to environment and security policies.
b) Federation of European contributions to the international Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

The EC has established a set of key documents setting out EU policy requirements for GMES together with implementing proposals. Further refinements will allow ESA to consolidate the specifications for the GMES Space Component.

The programme, which is aiming for full operational provision of satellite data for GMES services, involves the use of existing and planned national space capabilities as well as the development of new infrastructure. The GMES Space Component programme is intended to meet the requirements of the three pilot services identified by the EC for early implementation (land monitoring, ocean monitoring and emergency management) and other services to be deployed in the 2008-2020 period.

The GMES Space Component programme is built around five concepts of space missions or “Sentinels”, plus access to complementary missions from ESA Member States, Eumetsat, Canada and third parties.

Sentinel-1 will be a C-band interferometric radar mission; Sentinel-2, a multispectral optical imaging mission; Sentinel-3 a mission with an altimeter and wide swath low/medium resolution optical and infrared radiometers; Sentinel-4 and -5, two families of atmospheric chemistry monitoring missions, one (Sentinel-4) on geostationary and one (Sentinel-5) on low Earth orbit. The actual implementation of the missions will be according to a flexible architecture which may lead to grouping some of them on single platforms.

The whole programme, for which commitments through ESA and the EC are anticipated, spans the 2006-2013 timeframe and will be implemented in two Segments. Segment 1 phases 1 and 2 (2006-2012) will be funded through ESA, with the possibility of incorporating an EC contribution as it becomes available, while Segment 2 (2008-2013) is expected to be co-funded by the EC and ESA.

Segment 1 ensures data continuity in the short term and prepares the ground for the overall GMES space system. This is achieved by:

  • ensuring the development of the first missions, which combine instruments to satisfy the most urgent data gaps faced, up to launch and in-orbit validation in 2010/2011.
  • pre-developing all the other GMES instruments as prototypes for multiple use on successive spacecraft.
  • conducting the preliminary phases of atmospheric chemistry missions (Sentinel-4 and -5).
  • the design and initial development of the required ground segment for the GMES missions.
  • ensuring transparent and co-ordinated access to Earth observation data from ESA, Member States, Eumetsat, Canadian and third-party missions.

Segment 2 is expected to be decided and initiated in 2008, after the levels and characteristics of co-funding between EC and ESA for this Segment have been confirmed, leading to the implementation of all remaining elements of the GMES Space Component.

C2. Telecommunications: Implementation of demonstration missions (Alphasat)

In the current competitive environment, ESA intends to support the implementation of demonstration missions in order to provide European industry with opportunities to fly and qualify in-orbit innovative technology and products as well as to promote new services enabled by new satellite systems, possibly setting-up partnership schemes with operators and/or service providers.

Alphasat – to be launched in 2010- is aimed at demonstrating new services in orbit in the area of broadband multimedia to fixed or mobile installations as well as broadcasting to mobile users. It will also enable the full qualification in orbit of the large Alphabus platform (targeting powerful payloads between 12 and 18 kW) and the relevant payload and system technologies and equipment. The carrying out of a first mission using the Alphabus platform is essential to obtain the confidence of future customers of the platform itself and represents a unique opportunity for demonstrating new technologies, systems and services in orbit.

The Alphasat mission will consist of a core (pre)operational mission/payload and a technology package benefiting from the in-flight opportunity offered by the maiden flight of Alphabus.

The selection of the core (pre)operational mission will be based on the results of an ongoing open contest initiated in July 2005, with the aim of implementing a balanced public-private partnership with operators and/or industry. ESA, through this process, intends to select its Partner(s), which will operate Alphasat and provide the best combination of services meeting the interests of ESA on behalf of its Member States and allowing attractive future commercial and/or user perspectives on the European market. Proposed missions have confirmed the need for technology developments for low-cost Ka-band services, mobile interactive and broadcasting services, making use of the new available spectrum and based on flexible payload architectures.

In addition, opportunity operational missions dedicated to institutional users, in particular a Data Relay services mission in continuation to ARTEMIS services, may be embarked upon.

Finally, the technology package will be mainly composed of elements developed with the “traditional” ARTES lines for which an in-flight demonstration is a key element for successful introduction on operational satellites. The areas of interest include payload as well as platform technologies, which will be taken on-board as experiments.

The proposal provides for two decision points:

  • At the Ministerial Council in 2005: phases A and B, initial non-recurring developments required for payload equipment and technologies as well as early activities required to develop the ESA-led technology missions on-board Alphabus, financed through ARTES (slice 8) and preliminary agreements with the two Potential Partners;
  • At the end of 2006: final selection of the Alphasat Partner (on the confirmation of his financial commitment, and agreement with ESA on the development, validation and operational scheme of Alphasat), with all the funding required on the ESA side available.

In addition to the Alphasat Mission, ESA is pursuing the small GEO satellite initiative. In the context of probing the market with a new service or an existing service in new conditions (new geographical area, for instance), established operators are searching for a satellite with limited capacity and a low cost. Furthermore, potential operators are also looking for small low-cost satellites to facilitate their entry into the market.

To this end, the ARTES 11 programme will be structured in similar fashion to ARTES 8 and will provide additional opportunities to fly innovative technology/products (including a small European platform in geostationary orbit in the low-end range of the platform products: < 3 kW payload power) and accommodate other innovative payload technology and/or missions.

C3. Space Exploration

The desire to explore is a fundamental part of human heritage. For the last two millennia, Europeans have led the exploration and discovery of planet Earth, both on land and beneath the sea, and the challenge for Europe is now to participate strongly in the exploration of the frontiers beyond this planet.

In 2001, ESA Member States mandated the Agency to define a framework and a roadmap for extended robotic and human exploration of the Solar System. Since then, the interest in space exploration has largely grown worldwide, in particular through the new US vision for space exploration, which has reoriented the US space programme towards exploration goals.

The European Space Exploration Programme “Aurora”

Aurora is the continuation of the Preparatory Space Exploration Programme initiated in 2001 and consists of two elements, representing a balance between mutual dependence and non-dependence for Europe within an overall international architecture:

  • The “Core Programme” (2006-2009) of initial work for the definition of future robotic and human exploration missions in particular to the Moon and also to Mars; preparation of potential European contributions to such exploration missions, including flight demonstrations of fundamental capabilities; development of enabling technologies; development of European long-term scenarios and priorities through stakeholder consultations; activities for raising the awareness of European citizens with respect to space exploration.

    Though this preparatory work, Europe gets ready to take part in the establishment and the implementation of the international space exploration agenda, currently being defined, in particular concerning exploration of the Moon. Over the coming years the programme will be adjusted in content and emphasis leading to evolved proposals to be submitted to the Council at Ministerial Level of 2008.

  • ? Europe’s first robotic exobiology mission to Mars (ExoMars). The baseline mission configuration consists of a spacecraft composite (carrier + descent module) to be launched by a Soyuz 2b from Kourou. Depending on the level of contribution to the programme, an orbiter (instead of a carrier) could be an option, which would allow inter alia an independent data relay and telecommunication function, and would require an Ariane 5 launcher. The descent module will deploy a high-mobility rover with the Pasteur payload on the Martian surface, as well as a static package of geo-physics/meteorology/environment instruments. On the technology side, ExoMars will provide Europe with new enabling technologies for the exploration of Mars. One of the primary mission goals is to develop and validate the Entry Descent and Landing System (EDLS) as well as the rover technology, both establishing Europe as a qualified partner for future global exploration missions, especially the future Mars Sample Return mission. On the scientific side, the ExoMars mission will search for traces of past and present life, characterise the biological environment of Mars, improve knowledge of the Martian environment and geophysics, and identify possible hazards before landing other spacecraft or – in the longer term – humans. The launch of the ExoMars mission has been targeted for 2011.

The Clipper Preparatory Programme

Extending human spaceflight activities beyond low earth orbit and increasing the global robustness of human access to space requires the development of new crew transportation systems. The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, is initiating work on Clipper, a partially reusable transportation system (to replace the Soyuz spacecraft) to serve exploration purposes following initial missions to the ISS. Roscosmos has proposed that ESA participates in the development and operation of the system. Such participation would give Europe access to space at a much lower cost than an autonomous route.

An in-depth investigation of the content and modalities of such cooperation will be performed in a two-year (2006/2007) Clipper Preparatory Programme, with a view to preparing a decision on a joint development and future operations preparation programme at the Council meeting at Ministerial level in 2008. This phase will identify the mission and system requirements, establish a preliminary design, initiate technology demonstration, define the respective roles, responsibilities and rights of the partners, identify and quantify the cost and schedule for European participation and prepare the formal arrangements necessary for such a joint undertaking. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has expressed a wish to join ESA in this cooperation, with Roscosmos and other entities of the Russian Federation as may be required.

C4. New technology activities

In orbit technology demonstrations, in particular Formation Flying

New activities are proposed to cover the design and development and in-flight operation of a set of small satellites for the full-scale testing and validation of Formation Flying missions. Formation Flying technologies will make new missions possible and provide a leap in the performance of future missions in Science, Earth Observation and application missions being defined.

Mastering Formation Flying missions requires the development of specific technologies well beyond the state-of-the-art, such as metrology and guidance, navigation and control, and means revisiting in full the system engineering and complete lifecycle of the system design, validation, including tools and facilities, and operations.

Future Formation Flying missions will typically employ 2, 3 or more spacecraft. For this demonstration of formation acquisition, coordination and control issues, a cost-effective mission is proposed. It will be based on two small satellites, 3-axes stabilised, including onboard electric micro-propulsion system and a complete formation flying package to be able to demonstrate all relevant manoeuvres related to Formation Flying. In addition it is planned to accommodate a guest payload on the set of Formation Flying spacecraft.

The proposal concerns the preparatory activities to be performed in 2006-2008, with two parallel preparatory (phase A) studies on the General Studies Programme, leading to a phase B effort which will start in late 2006 and enable industry to produce committing proposals for the development phase to be decided at the Council at Ministerial level of 2008, for in-orbit demonstration end 2010.

New programme for non-dependence, spin-ins and dual-use technologies (NewPro)

Security in general, and civil security in particular, are of major concern to European citizens, as repeatedly shown by EU-wide surveys. Space systems can play a major role in supporting security in its aspects of prevention, intelligence, management and protection.

For sustained reliance on space systems and to avoid dependence or non availability, Europe needs to maintain and enhance its technology research, engineering and manufacturing capabilities. A convenient means of sustaining and enhancing capabilities is the adaptation for space of multi-use technologies in areas in which space is not leading research. This reduces cost and ensures best performance for space systems.

It is in this context of having to meet new requirements, guarantee non-dependence and benefit from multiple use technologies that a New Programme (NewPro) is proposed, including potential cooperation with the EC.

As currently proposed, NewPro will be based on three elements:

  • European non-dependence: the need to have free access to technology in order to develop, use and export European space systems.
  • Multi-use technologies (spin-in); innovation for space design has to take benefit of progress in non-space technology sectors by adapting and using these technologies;
  • Security and space: space can provide solutions to increased concerns about global security at European level.

These three elements will be implemented according to their maturity, starting with the non-dependence element, for which initiatives are already ongoing e.g. for electronic components, then the multi-use element, where priority areas will be identified in the course of 2006 and finally to the civil security element, where the needs are being defined and where architecture and technology characterisation studies are pre-requisites for technology development work.

So as to enable the mechanism of the NewPro concept, including cooperation with the EC, to be defined in detail, a 3-year interim phase is proposed for implementation through an existing ESA programme (GSTP-4), leading to a fully-fledged proposal in time for the 2008 Council at Ministerial level.

SpaceRef staff editor.