ESA’s StarTiger seeks new ideas for rapid R&D

StarTiger, a pioneering ESA initiative in technology R&D
23 April 2010

Technology development is typically a slow, gradual process. But it doesn’t have to be: ESA is looking for institutions willing to try R&D the StarTiger way – gather talented researchers together then give them six months to invent, build and test an item of breakthrough technology.

The Agency is inviting proposals for research following the StarTiger approach, open to groups of researchers from ESA Member States and Canada.

Standing for ‘Space Technology Advancements by Resourceful, Targeted and Innovative Groups of Experts and Researchers’, StarTiger aims at accelerating standard R&D processes to achieve technology breakthroughs.

ThruVision uses space technology
TeraHertz imager produced by StarTiger-1

It involves a carefully selected multi-disciplinary team of highly motivated scientists and engineers from several institutions, collocated at a site with access to state-of-the-art facilities and set to work on a single problem continuously against the clock.

“It’s quite a demanding request for management to commit to,” explained Peter de Maagt, overseeing the StarTiger initiative. “Not only do they have to free up the StarTiger team to work 100% on a single subject but grant them preferential access to resources and adopt a mindset which is ready to go from day one.

Proba-3 will fly coronagraph
External coronagraph developed by StarTiger-2

“It’s a deliberately aggressive approach, but the challenge of it encourages camaraderie in the team that adds to their overall effectiveness. The whole becomes bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Success in R&D can never be taken for granted, but the concept has been proven by two successful pilot projects. The first, in 2002, led to the development of a teraHertz imager useful for both astronomical research and environmental monitoring – and since spun off into airport security scanning.

The second StarTiger project, completed this month, built a prototype ‘external coronagraph’, a double-satellite system able to block out the Sun continuously in an artificial eclipse so that the corona can be observed without interruption.

The success of these two efforts has led to StarTiger being placed on a permanent footing. For the next three years it will encompass one Announcement of Opportunity per year, aimed at selecting to two projects per year.

Proposals should focus on the investigation of novel, non-conventional ideas, aimed at achieving technology breakthroughs with the maximum likelihood of success in the shortest period of time, ideally mission-enabling in nature.

The current Announcement of Opportunity is open until 14 June. Further information is available directly via ESA’s Electronic Mail Invitation to Tender System (EMITS), which is open to any qualified organisation.

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