How ESA Prepares for the Future

19 July 2013

The European Space Agency is preparing for the future through a range of activities and programmes, which work together for efficient results. They can be divided into activities allowing for development of new activities and programmes in the short- to medium-terms as well as others which will not be complete until farther into the future.

Advanced Concepts Team (ACT)

Preparing for the future in the long term is the Advanced Concepts Team. This team is a channel for the study of technologies and ideas that are of strategic importance in the long term planning of the Agency. Some of the topics investigated by this team include  advanced materials, artificial intelligence, bio-engineering, biomimetics, computational science, earth system science, energy systems, fundamental physics, informatics, mission analysis or propulsion.

The team provides decision-makers with the support of a highly multidisciplinary research group. Science and engineering research fellows (PhDs working at ESA for two years), Young Graduate Trainee and stagiaires form the bulk of this Team. Based at ESTEC, they carry out research work on advanced topics and emerging technologies and perform highly skilled analysis on a wide range of topics.

The Ariadna initiative provides a link with the European academic community in advanced space technology research to perform collaborative research. Ariadna covers all the fields of the ACT's research where specific knowledge and skills are required. The cooperation helps the academic community to keep up to date with ESA activities and developments.

General Studies Programme (GSP)

The General Studies Programme (GSP) has existed since the foundation of ESA to plan for the short to medium term.  GSP interacts in different ways with all of the ESA programmes, but its main role is to lay the groundwork for the Agency’s future activities.

The objectives of the General Studies Programme are to:

  • Contribute to the formulation of the overall ESA strategy;
  • Study feasibility for selection of new mission concepts;
  • Prepare/demonstrate the case for approval and funding of new optional projects/programmes;
  • Support the evolution of ESA by analysing and testing new working methodologies.

Diverse topics are investigated, running across the entire spectrum of the agency’s activities.

The GSP is organised around three domains:

  • Mission assessment studies: The programme performs mission feasibility studies, , which provide ESA member states and scientific community with the necessary information for the selection of new mission concepts and the approval and funding of new optional programmes. The GSP also performs ESA internal mission concept assessments via the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF).
  • Interdisciplinary activities: The GSP facilitates inter-directorate work e.g. through the internal biannual Call for study Ideas and the 30 to 50 new activities resulting from it in each cycle. Each proposal for new studies must involve representatives from at least three different directorates. The topics investigated run across the entire spectrum of the Agency’s activities, with the result that ESA staff act as the main "discoverers" and "filters" of new ideas in the European space sector. Each study usually lasts one to two years, sufficient time for in-depth exploration of each subject.
  • Strategy studies: Actions within the General Studies Programme also contribute to the formulation of the overall ESA strategy. GSP supports the evolution of ESA by analysing trends and identifying potential issues, and by testing new working methodologies – laying the groundwork for the Agency’s future activities.

GSP actively seeks the views and suggestions of industry, which are gathered through workshops, visits and interviews.

Space for Earth

The “Space for Earth” initiative aims at ensuring coordination across ESA of themes that are important to help solving global challenges on Earth, and dealt with by  several individual programmes at ESA. Space for Earth aims to:

 

  • promote the internal and external knowledge of those activities
  • illustrate the benefit of internal synergies
  • inform potential users
  • help with the identification of needs that can be covered by space systems
  • support the development of systems and activities that will cover needs not covered by existing programmes

The current themes covered under the “Space for Earth” initiative are the following:

  • Space & Energy
  • Space for the Oceans
  • Space & the Poles
    • Space & the Arctic
    • Space & the Antarctic

Other themes will be added.

For more information

Should you wish a contact on one of these programmes (Advanced Concepts, General Studies and Space for Earth) and do not find it under the relevant pages, please contact:

Isabelle Duvaux-Béchon
Coordinator of ESA Transverse Cross-Cutting Initiatives
ESA HQ, 8-10 rue Mario Nikis, 75015 Paris, France
E-mail: isabelle.duvaux-bechon@esa.int

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