Year of Execution: 2006/7
Duration: 18 months

Tomorrow's bird: a viww at the futrue of (commercial) spacecraft for the next generation launchers


To assess possible technologies, architectures, missions of a future generation of commercial spacecraft in a time frame 2015-2025, therefore compatible with the availability in time of a Next Generation of European Launchers, currently being conceived in the frame of the FLPP Programme. To identify major requirements/interfaces imposed by these future satellites on a Next Generation Launchers.

Relevance to GSP and ESA future programmes:

The study is in line with the GSP, because it will provide important inputs to be used in the frame of programmes such as FLPP, EUI, SCI and EOP for the definition of future missions and for the timely planning and preparation of related new programme proposals.


This study takes its inspiration by a simple, but important consideration: "Historically, the time required to develop a new launcher generation is, as an average, as long as the one that takes to develop two generations of commercial platforms".

This means that a new generation of European launchers being currently conceived, will have to provide its services to deliver in space a class of commercial satellites that not only do not exist today, but is not even being designed by the European Primes. For this reason, in order to support the establishment of realistic mission and payload interface requirements for the Next Generation of European Launchers, a study to be performed in coordination by European industry and concerned Directorates at ESA (i.e. D/TEC, D/LAU and D/EUI) will be a powerful tool to project the European vision towards the future of commercial platforms.

Furthermore, the study will also be an opportunity to strengthen the links between the launcher, the commercial platform and the operation communities in Europe, in order to exploit well in advance possible synergies and ameliorations of the overall service provided by the launcher/spacecraft such as to increase the potential competitiveness of the European commercial segment in the long run.

Finally, taking into account that Science and Earth Observation spacecraft rely significantly on the subsystem technologies and solutions available on existing commercial platforms, the output of the study will also be of benefit to D/SCI and D/EOP for the preliminary design effort of their new missions and to D/OPS for the feasibility and phase A studies.

Brief Description:

The study shall be based on the following major work packages:

  • Assessment of possible scenarios for the evolution of commercial satellites missions in a time frame 2015-2025 (extrapolating as much as possible from existing market forecast and inputs by Telecom Operators)
  • Assessment of technology trends and solutions for the platform subsystems and payload
  • Conceptual design of possible commercial platform architectures based on the previous technology choices
  • Assessment of advanced operations concept(s) compatible with the identified platform and payload solutions (e.g. autonomy and automatism)
  • Identification of preliminary requirements and interfaces for the Next Generation Launcher (envelope and specific)

Economical, legal and regulatory aspects involved in the solutions assessed in the previous work packages shall be devoted the needed attention in the study.

At the end of the study the possibility for the organisation of a dedicated CDF session will be examined, with the scope of evaluating the work performed by industry while feeding-back at the same time the results into the CDF repository for utilisation in future work performed by the Facility.

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