In the frame of the General Support Technology Programme (GSTP), the European space industry develops leading edge space technologies that enable missions to discover the Universe, understand our environment, navigate, educate and save lives. The GSTP has demonstrated itself as a successful and key programme for building know-how and capabilities in the industry, having been recognised by the Participating States as one of the best instruments in ESA to help assure Europe’s competitiveness in the global market, creating jobs and keeping Europe at the forefront of technological innovation.
What is GSTP?
GSTP has the following objectives:
- Enable missions of ESA and national programmes by developing technology;
- Foster innovation by creating new products;
- Strengthen the competitiveness of European industry;
- Improve European technological non-dependence and the availability of European sources for critical technologies;
- Facilitate spin-in from outside the space sector.
The programme’s mission is to convert promising engineering concepts into a broad spectrum of mature products – everything from individual components to subsystems up to complete satellites – right up to the brink of spaceflight or beyond.
This is achieved through the development of engineering models or 'breadboards' whose space-worthiness can be verified not only in the lab but also within the less forgiving environment of ESTEC's set of simulators – including exposure to acceleration, temperature or radiation extremes – and increasingly all the way up to orbit on demonstration missions.
The GSTP’s work also extends to product and process improvements, aiming for a flexible response to the needs of ESA programmes, Member States and the European industry, and focusing on growing the number of European-made space-qualified parts commercially available.
Why is it needed?
The GSTP functions to bridge the gap between concept proven technologies and space missions, between the laboratories/research centres and the open market. Moreover, due to the complexity and unpredictability of the challenges encountered in space it is very important to minimize the mission risks as much as possible, which the GSTP does by aiding with the evaluation of the technology in question and, when pertinent, test it in actual flight.
In addition, the activities covered by the GSTP come from different sources. Some activities of this programme are technologies that have gone through the TRP process and rely on GSTP to further their maturity into viable products. Others can have their origin in partnerships with institutions or following requests from industry for technical support and evaluation of products to help with their development.
To sum up, the GSTP enables missions helping novel technology to reach the right maturity level, thus ensuring the right technology is available at the right time.
GSTP implementation process
The GSTP is an optional ESA programme, open for ESA Member States (including Canada as a Cooperating State member and Slovenia as an Associate State member) to choose whether to participate and if so, to define the level of contribution being committed and to which element. Furthermore, the GSTP activities cover all ESA domains plus Generic Technologies, with the exception of Telecommunications which has its own ARTES programme.
This programme has been in operation for almost 25 years and is now a permanent programme, separated into three programme elements (Develop, Make and Fly). Its work plan is approved by representatives of Participating Member States, prioritising issues that fit with their own industrial strategies.
What benefits does it deliver?
During its two decades of implementation, the GSTP has successfully bridged the gap between having a technology proven in fundamental terms and making it ready for ESA and National Programmes, the open market and, eventually, Space itself. Some good examples are:
- LEON family of microprocessors flown in AlphaSat and selected for the Sentinels;
- Technology predevelopment done for the CFRP reflector of the Plank Telescope;
- GPS POD instrument baseline in the Sentinels and Earth Care missions;
- MEMS rate sensor flying in Cryosat 2;
- The 1N “green” thruster in PRISMA;
- APS development that led to the lightweight Star Tracker in BepiColombo or the hybrid low cost magnetometer in ADM-Aeolus;
- The Mission Operation Center (MOC) for CHEOPS.
It is also worth to mention is the Thrust Vector Control system flown in our small European Launcher VEGA or the Human Spaceflight related activities which are also an integral part of the GSTP like the IPV system, the gas monitor Anita, the Melissa project and other health monitoring devices for astronauts.
In the GSTP, technology concepts are transformed into engineering models and then converted into a broad spectrum of mature products – everything from individual components, to subsystems, up to complete satellites. The GSTP also offers flight opportunities to demonstrate technology or new concepts via PROBA (PRoject for OnBoard Autonomy) or other flight opportunities. Examples include the first technology demonstration CubeSat GOMX-3, GOMX-4 CubeSat intended to test and prepare the way for future satellite constellations, PROBA-V designed for global environmental and agricultural monitoring, the SMOS Instrument MIRAS or the technologies demonstrated on-board the ISS (e.g. the Automated Identification System (AIS)) and the QARMAN CubeSat - the very first of its kind, intended to demonstrate the feasibility of a CubeSat as a re-entry platform and an economical solution for research in telemetry.
Special areas of interest
In addition to the core activities in the Generic Technologies and Techniques domain which are dedicated to the development of technologies, building blocks ans components for future space missions, the following areas of interest have been identified:
• Advanced Manufacturing: a key enabling technology for space applications that allows to obtain fit-for-purpose hardware in a shorter period time and by using less material;
• Design 2 Produce: which allows to perform digital engineering of systems focusing not only on structure optimization, but also improving structural efficiency by predicting critical areas and progressive damage to structures as well as verification and methodology implementation;
• Clean Space: ESA’s cross-cutting initiative that aims to contribute to the reduction of the environmental impact of space activities;
• Electric Propulsion alternatives: such as microcolloid thruster technology or IFM nano thruster;
• EGS-CC: an European initiative where the Large System Integrators and space agencies are, for the first time, collaborating in the development of common infrastructure for ground systems that accompanies the full lifecycle of a space system.
These are only some of the new challenges being addressed by GSTP that will enable the European missions of the future.
How to participate?
Contracts are awarded based on national support, with the Participating States informing the Agency of any activities they wish to support prior to an Invitation To Tender being issued.
Procurement generally occurs competitively on a 100% funding basis, although up to 50% or 75% ESA co-funding is possible in non-competitive tenders (mainly Element 2).
GSTP Invitations for Tender are issued regularly on ESA’s EMITS website, which requires registration for access.
For more details, please view the page GSTP FAQS.