Announcement of Opportunity: ISS Experiments studying Global Climate Change
The ESA Directorate of Human Spaceflight will issue a dedicated research Announcement of Opportunity for experiments studying global climate change from the International Space Station (ISS).
The ISS is now almost completely assembled and operating with a crew of six astronauts. A large variety of research activities are being routinely performed onboard the ISS by ESA and the other international partners. Historically, the main focus of European research has been in the area of life and physical sciences, taking advantage of the microgravity and exposure to the space environment provided by ISS in Low Earth Orbit.
Furthermore, ISS also provides a multiuser platform for studies in astrophysics, solar science, fundamental physics, Earth science and climate change studies. In addition the ESA Directorate of Human Spaceflight has recently issued an anticipated call for ideas (CFI) to assess the potential interest in using of ISS as testbed for technologies needed for future exploration missions.
It is planned that ISS will be operational to least 2020 and likely beyond. Therefore, even in view of an already full European ISS utilisation plan it is important to solicit proposals for new experiments and applications of ISS in new research and technology domains to realise the full potential of this unique space platform over the coming years.
Use of the ISS to supplement ongoing space based studies of global climate change
The consequences of global changes in Earth’s environment are a major challenge for humanity in the coming decades and centuries. Various natural physical processes modify the atmosphere, oceans and land surfaces on short and long term scales. However, in the past 150 years human activities have resulted in significant changes in many aspects of Earth’s environment, including increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, modification of the nitrogen & phosphorous cycle and major alterations of land use (e.g. deforestation).
It is crucial that we understand the interaction of anthropogenic environmental changes with natural changes to predict future changes in Earth’s environment. In turn this research information will assist sustainable development in relation to human activities, while minimising degradation of the environment and limiting the vulnerability of society to global changes.
ESA currently has an extensive research programme of current and planned Earth observation missions that support studies of global change. This includes ESA’s Living Planet Programme and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative, jointly carried out with the European Union and ESA’s Climate Change Initiative.
Each of the individual missions carries a specialised suite of instruments to address specific mission objectives.
Potentially the ISS can be used as an observation platform for instruments and experiments relevant to global change studies, supplementing ongoing and planned observations from dedicated satellite mission platforms.
The European Columbus module has an External Payloads Facility (CEPF) which has four payload attachment sites on the end of the module, permitting nadir, zenith and side (limb) viewing.
The Cupola module, launched in early 2010, has multiple windows and will provide a location to operate internally mounted instruments. An ISS Earth sciences instrument already under development is the Atmosphere Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) for Columbus, planned to be deployed on the ISS in 2014.
To assess the level of interest in the European and international research community in deploying remote-sensing instruments on the ISS for global change studies a joint call for ideas (CFI) was issued by ESA’s Directorates of Human Spaceflight and Earth Observation in October 2009.
A total of 45 proposed ideas were received, with many mature, high quality concepts proposed. This input confirmed a high level of interest in the use of ISS for climate change studies and several interesting thematic areas for experiments were identified. Therefore, it was decided to proceed with release of a dedicated Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for experiments on climate change studies using the ISS.
The AO will solicit proposals from scientific institutes for flight experiments on climate change studies using the ISS as a platform. Proposed projects should be consistent with the overall research goals of the ESA Earth observation programmes and should complement on-going and planned climate change and Earth observations studies from dedicated satellite, airborne and terrestrial platforms.
There is the possibility to propose both experiments which would need a full development schedule for new space instrument as well as “fast track” experiments, which could be potentially developed or adapted and flown in a short time frame ( max 3 years). Fast track experiments need to have a high technology readiness level, limited ISS resource requirements and most likely mounted internally viewing through windows, such as those in the Cupola.
Proposals which pass peer review selection will undergo a feasibility and phase A concept study, the results of which will be used to prioritise projects. Final selection and development of projects for flight (phase B/C/D/E) is contingent on available budget and ISS resources after programmatic decisions at the next ESA Council at Ministerial level in 2012.
AO Solicitation Timeline:
Release of Announcement of Opportunity: mid January 2011 (see Human Spaceflight website)
Deadline for submission of Letters of Intent: late February 2011
Deadline for submission of proposals: mid May 2011