The International Space Station as a platform for global climate change studies
Science & Exploration

Call for Ideas for experiments for global climate change studies from the International Space Station

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Research

This Call for Ideas is closed, an Announcement of Opportunity was released on 7 July 2011 at:

ESA’s Directorate of Human Spaceflight, with support from the Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes, announces a Call for Ideas (CFI) to scientific institutes and industries aimed to obtain an indication of interest in research for global climate change studies using the International Space Station (ISS) in the 2012-2020 timeframe. Note: Call for ideas submissions deadline has been extended to the 18 January 2010.

The consequences of global changes in our environment pose major challenges to humanity in the coming decades. Various natural physical processes modify the atmosphere, oceans and land surfaces on short- and long-term scales. However, in the past 150 years human activities have resulted in significant changes in our environment, including increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, modification of the nitrogen and phosphorous cycles and major alterations of land use, such as deforestation.

ESA currently has an extensive programme of current and planned Earth observation missions that support studies of global change. This includes ESA’s Living Planet Programme, the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative, jointly carried out with the European Union, and ESA’s Climate Change Initiative. Each of the individual missions under these programmes carries a specialised suite of instrumentation to address specific scientific and mission objectives.

The International Space Station (ISS) is an orbital platform with a permanent six-person crew. It will reach its fully assembled configuration in 2010, offering a multi-purpose research facility in low orbit until at least 2015 and possibly beyond, as continuing discussions between ISS partners strongly suggest. Potentially, the ISS can be used as an observation platform for instruments and experiments relevant to global change studies, supplementing ongoing and planned observations from dedicated platforms.

Proposed ideas should be complementary to the on-going ESA Earth observation programmes and consistent with the research goals as described in ESA SP-1304, The Changing Earth: New Scientific Challenges for ESA’s Living Planet Programme. This may include:

  • Specific observations, utilising ISS as observation platform, indicating the types of measurement/observations required.
  • Individual instruments or experiments, either externally or internally mounted, including demonstrations of future monitoring instruments
  • Multi-user payloads or facilities, carrying multiple instruments

Payloads can be potentially accommodated either externally on ISS (outside of modules or on the Truss) or internally observing through a dedicated ISS window. The ISS is in a 51.6° inclination, 350-460 km altitude orbit.

The primary focus of the CFI is for observations related to climate change research. However, interest in the use of ISS for general Earth observation is also considered.

The output of the CFI will be used by the Agency to assess the research community’s interest in the use of ISS as an observation platform for research and demonstrations in this field. Specifically:

  • Assess the scope of interest in terms of research fields and instrument/payload type
  • Focus content of a possible future Announcement of Opportunity for flight experiments/instruments
  • Define a plan for future use of ISS for European climate change research and Earth observation

Important dates:
Letter of Interest due: 18 January 2010
ESA Feedback to proposers on ideas: 21 March 2010

Point of contact:
Jason Hatton
Tel: +31 71 565 4059

Email address for submission of ideas:

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