ESA's Future Preparation and Strategic Studies Office and its General Studies Programme (GSP) held the first SysNova Workshop on 22nd January 2013 in the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) at ESTEC (Netherlands). SysNova is a new space concept competition proposed by the European Space Agency (ESA) to compare solutions to given space mission challenges.
Every year GSP will propose several topics related to new technology potentials beyond current ESA programmes and Teams composed of experts from academia, research institutes and industry can submit their proposals and compete for a final prize.
The 2012 Announcement of Opportunity was called SEALS (Sustainable near-Earth Access and Life Support) and the topics were:
- Changing the orbit of a small asteroid or space debris without making physical contact with them;
- Deflecting one of the components of a binary asteroid through a kinetic impact;
- How to sustain life in the interplanetary environment.
In the first phase each study team was asked to propose a solution to two of the topics. These proposals were shortlisted and the teams which passed the first selection were asked to develop a more detailed analysis of a minimum of one of the topics they had presented. The Final Review was done at the workshop in the Concurrent Design Facility at ESA-ESTEC during which the teams presented their work and had the possibility to discuss it with a very knowledgeable audience. The workshop also included presentations of the main results of related ESA internal studies, which were conducted as MiCRA studies in 2011 (see link). The event concluded with a public discussion and the proclamation of the winner of this 2012 SysNova competition.
The concepts retained for this round and presented during the workshop were:
The concept BeAST, from GMV, Politecnico di Milano and TAS-I, and the concept KABOOM, from Technical University of Madrid, Astrium GMBH and Deimos, about how to deflect a binary asteroid through a kinetic impact.
Light Touch2, a concept from University of Strathclyde, University of Southampton, Astrium Ltd and GMV-SKY, about contactless deflection of an asteroid with technology based on laser ablation.
MOSAIC, a concept from TUM, Astrium GMBH and Deimos, about contactless deflection of an asteroid with electrical propulsion.
COBRa, a concept from GMV, Politecnico di Milano and TAS-I, about contactless deflection of space debris with chemical propulsion.
And the winner is… The COBRa concept! It was chosen for its innovative aspects that concern the deflection by use of chemical propulsion. A concept of such kind has never been studied before. The award consists of a further assessment to be performed as a CDF pre-phase A feasibility study by a joint team of ESA specialists and COBRa team members. All study teams of the final round will be awarded with financial support for technology development connected to their proposed concept.