When operations of the International Space Station eventually cease, the benefits of having a habitable space lab above Earth won’t end there. Looking to the future, ESA is seeking proposals for space facilities to support research, technology demonstrations, and to prepare humans for longer-duration spaceflight.
Since the assembly of this orbital outpost began in 1998 with international cooperation between Europe, the United States, Canada, Russia and Japan, the Station has seen hundreds of experiments being run and producing invaluable scientific data. These have benefited life on Earth and advanced knowledge and capabilities for long-duration spaceflight to deep-space destinations.
Though Station partners have agreed to continue operations until 2024, the first continuously inhabited outpost in space will reach the end of its operational life by 2030.
ESA is calling for potential commercial partners to engage in co-funded studies of concepts for other facilities, services, and capabilities in low Earth orbit – up to 2000 km above Earth’s surface.
Like the Station, future space facilities must address the needs of the institutional and private users. The research community today expects capabilities in life sciences, physics research and technology demonstrations. Future customer and new markets might be interested in even more ambitious research such as in-space manufacturing and assembly.
Given the formidable challenge of providing an affordable platform as well as the international spirit of research in low Earth orbit today, ESA welcomes the opportunity to partner with European and non-European groups in the commercial and the private sector to further human spaceflight and exploration.