Space Stations

Wanted: European Commercial Cargo Service For Space Stations Around Earth

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
June 1, 2023
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Wanted: European Commercial Cargo Service For Space Stations Around Earth
International Space Station

ESA invites European companies to submit proposals for commercial cargo transportation services to and from the International Space Station and future commercial low Earth orbit outposts.

Through this, ESA seeks to expand Europe’s human exploration capabilities with commercial cargo missions to low Earth orbit as part of its Terrae Novae strategy for human and robotic exploration.

“ESA and its Member States are preparing for when the International Space Station is retired: an environment where space agencies are customers rather than owners of space infrastructure.

“In this context, ESA is giving opportunities to European industry to provide a service-based offer for cargo services in support of the International Space Station and future low Earth-orbit destinations,” explains Frank De Winne, ESA’s International Space Station Manager.

This commercial approach has already been introduced on the International Space Station with experiments running inside and soon outside Europe’s Space Station Columbus module. Another example which paves the way for commercial services in space is ESA’s plan to build a constellation of communication and navigation satellites around the Moon, called Moonlight.

Cargo up, and cargo down

Companies should come with solutions to send a minimum of two tonnes of pressurised cargo to the International Space Station by the end of 2028 on a demonstration mission and return to Earth with at least one tonne of cargo. Returning cargo to Earth benefits scientific research by returning samples back to the community.

“By launching this call, we are providing the supporting scheme, whereby private companies receive support from ESA to develop services to the International Space Station and future commercial destinations orbiting Earth,” explains Frank De Winne.

Companies will retain full project authority and full responsibility. ESA’s support is meant to be only a fraction of the funding necessary to complete the development of the cargo delivery system and launch the demonstration flight.

ESA and the selected companies will jointly agree on milestones with a mix of technical and financial success criteria. Follow this link for further details and guidelines on how to submit proposals.

A webinar on 15 June at 10:00 CEST (09:00 GMT) will be held to answer questions.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.