Frequently asked questions
1. What is meant by commercial utilisation of the ISS?
ESA offers new business opportunities in various microgravity environments, such as drop towers, sounding rockets, parabolic flights – and the International Space Station (ISS).
Those different forms of microgravity facilities offer various kinds of options for research: from automated experiments that require only a short period of weightlessness experiments that require a long duration of microgravity need human interference to succeed.
The most extensive research facilities are on board the ISS. Together with regular access and the possibility for continuous use, ESA can offer an unprecedented opportunity for industry to carry out their own research in conditions of weightlessness on the ISS.
Moreover, ESA offers companies the opportunity to test its innovations and technology in the harsh conditions of the space environment on the ISS.
2. Is everybody eligible to participate in commercial activities on board the ISS?
Yes. In principle everybody can access the International Space Station. The ISS is open for business to natural and legal persons, like your company.
Any company from one of the ISS International Partners has the right to access the ISS. Others should request and obtain an ad-hoc authorisation from the ISS International Partners. The ESA Business Development Office will help you to obtain this authorisation, if required.
Customers from one of the 17 ESA Member States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom) have the right to access the ISS and they do not require any ad-hoc authorisation.
3. Are there any constraints?
Yes. First of all, there are few basic ethical constraints. ESA cannot accept commercial proposals having any form of association with the following: alcohol, tobacco, religion, politics, intolerance, violence, firearms, pornography, obscenity, gambling and narcotic drugs.
Also, there are some technical aspects typical of and unique to the space environment, which need to be considered. If your commercial idea implies the space flight of one of your products, or of anything that is for us a payload, a number of safety and related issues will have to be considered.
4. How much would my commercial activity cost?
Less than you might think. The actual price depends upon the kind of commercial project you have in mind: for example the complexity and the duration of the project, the permanence of your payload on board the ISS, the level of astronauts involvement.
5. How does ESA help customers?
ESA is able to help customers in different ways, for example:
- Providing the services of the ESA Business Development Office, which coordinates all ESA's commercialisation efforts and is at your disposal for any questions
- Providing the services of the Commercial Agents who support th customer in transforming their utilisation idea into a project on the ISS
- Offering a wider range of services through the Co-operation Agreement Partners, which complement those directly offered by ESA
- Offering an opportunity to get your project partially financed if certain conditions are fulfilled
6. What about confidentiality and IPR?
ESA has defined a policy in relation to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), which is formulated broadly to leave sufficient room for negotiation.
In this connection two key principles have been established:
The customer paying the totality of the utilisation costs will have exclusive ownership, access and use of the Information, Data and Intellectual Property resulting from that utilisation.
- When ESA partially funds the customer activities, the access to and use of Information, Data and Intellectual Property to be reserved by ESA will be negotiated in accordance with the applicable policy, with a view to securing payment to ESA of royalties on the Information, Data and Intellectual Property exploitation or fees relating to the provision by ESA of services or financial support.
ESA ensures its customers a high-level of confidentiality starting from the very early days of a commercial project.
7. What do I need to do to get 'on board'?
You simply need to submit your commercial proposal to the Business Development Office.
This website provides you with the guidelines to establish a Commercial Proposal. The Commercial Agents are ready to support you in developing your utilisation idea into a Commercial proposal.
8. Who do I contact for questions about ISS commercialisation?
Contact ESA's Business Development Office.
We will be pleased to respond to your questions and to help you in developing your business idea, either by taking direct care of your project, or pointing you towards the most suitable Commercial Agent for your project.
Please contact us at:
Or phone us at: +31 71 565 5068
Or write to us at:
European Space Agency
ISS Business Development Office
Directorate of Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration
NL – 2201 AZ Noordwijk
Last update: 7 September 2007