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Commercial Opportunities for Space Exploration

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ESA’s commercial activities for space exploration support innovative business cases from European industry and promote a broader utilisation of the International Space Station. They also foster new technologies and mission support services that could boost future ESA missions to the Moon and Mars.

Since 2015, ESA's permanently open Call for partnerships invites industry to participate in the Agency’s European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P). All open business opportunities can be found here.

To further stimulate demand, growth and long-term development in a new low Earth orbit and lunar economy, ESA is setting up a Business in Space Growth Network (BSGN).

David Parker, Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration
David Parker, Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration

“Commercial partnership plays a growing role in the exciting ESA vision for space exploration,” commented David Parker, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration. 

“ESA intends to stimulate private sector engagement in space exploration and foster innovative and inspiring approaches for ISS services and utilisation and future ESA missions.” 

Low Earth orbit

ESA’s Space 4.0 strategy aims to transition Low Earth Orbit (LEO) activities from being a government-run laboratory to a commercially-driven human and robotic spaceflight economy. Three commercial services, ICE Cubes, Bartolomeo and Bioreactor Express have already been established in LEO under the permanent Call For Partnerships.


Two commercial partnerships have already been established in support of the future lunar economy: the Goonhilly Earth Station and Commercial Lunar Mission Support Services (CLMSS).

ICE Cubes

Ice Cubes in Columbus mockup
Ice Cubes in Columbus mockup

The ICE Cubes service is the first European commercial opportunity to conduct research in space. This pioneering agreement signed between ESA and Space Applications Services NV/SA, Belgium, offers room to run experiments and conduct research in weightlessness inside ESA’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. 

Launched in May 2018, the service provides rapid and simplified access to the station on a commercial basis. For the first time, ICE Cubes users will be able to interact with their experiment directly from their home. 

Bioreactor Express

Working with ESA’s Kubik centrifuge
Working with ESA’s Kubik centrifuge

With the aim to commercialise the KUBIK Incubator facility on ISS Columbus, ESA and Kayser Italia signed the Bioreactor Express commercial partnership in July 2019. The KUBIK facility is suitable for a range of experiments in biology, biotech, human research, fluid physics, and materials science. It is equipped with a centrifuge and thermal control capability. The use of existing hardware such as experiment containers enable a competitive pricing and shorter lead times for commercial customers.


Bartolomeo platforms outside Columbus
Bartolomeo platforms outside Columbus

Airbus Defence and Space partnered with ESA on 7 February 2018 to start developing a new commercial service for the International Space Station called Bartolomeo.

From early 2021, the versatile Bartolomeo 'All-in-one Mission Service' will provide end-to-end access for external payloads on the Station for many mission types at competitive prices. It offers an unobstructed view of Earth, direct control of the experiments from the ground via a high-speed data feed, and the possibility of retrieving samples.

Developing commercial capacity for future missions beyond LEO

Goonhilly antenna
Goonhilly antenna

ESA and the County of Cornwall in the UK have partnered up to redevelop part of Goonhilly Earth Station, an existing commercial station in Cornwall, UK, to enable it to provide Europe’s first deep-space tracking services on a commercial basis. 

The Goonhilly project will be initially funded through a €9.5 million investment from the UK’s Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, a public­–private regional economic development body, and will later include a smaller investment from ESA.

Under the project, a 32 m-diameter dish built in 1985 will be upgraded to provide fast data links for missions far beyond Earth – typically exceeding two million kilometres. 

“Once the station upgrade work is complete, in about 24 months, Goonhilly will be able to complement ESA’s own stations, and provide deep-space tracking for the Agency’s missions as well as those of other space agencies or from private space start-ups aiming to exploit the Moon or mine asteroids,” notes Klaus-Jürgen Schulz, responsible for ESA ground station engineering.  

Commercial Lunar Mission Support Services

In July 2020, ESA and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) signed a partnership agreement to develop the first Lunar communication and navigation service. The Commercial Lunar Mission Support Services (CLMSS) will deliver vital infrastructure to empower and sustain the future of Moon exploration and strategically position European capabilities. The launch of the Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft is envisaged for 2023.

Commercial research and application development

Business in Space Growth Network (BSGN)

ESA is promoting the development of a market for the commercial use of human-tended platforms in low Earth Orbit, thereby contributing to the emergence of and transition towards a sustainable LEO and lunar economy. The BSGN aims to lay the foundation for new space-enabled commercial activities leveraging LEO-based infrastructures and new exploration-related infrastructures to be built around and on the Moon.

The BSGN wants to identify, understand, and activate new user communities in an effort to probe non-space markets for their potential to deliver scalable space-enabled applications, services and products. To this end, the BSGN intends to launch a Digital Platform, Market-Stimulation Programme and permanently open Announcement of Opportunities in collaboration with ESA’s ARTES Integrated Applications Programme. Please see here for all open business opportunities related to the BSGN .

Commercial opportunities

ISS and beyond

Call for Partnerships (CFP)

A unique opportunity for the private sector to shape and engage as a strategic partner in the future global space exploration undertaking. ESA is looking into novel ways to partner with the private sector and facilitate the realisation of European exploration ambitions.

Closing date: Always open

Business in Space Growth Network

The Digital Platform is intended to be the European one-stop-shop for information and resources relating to opportunities in the commercialisation of human spaceflight and robotic exploration. It shall aim to help bridge the gap between the science-oriented and capability-driven space sector and the product-driven non-space sectors which could use the space environment to boost their product development. The digital platform is considered key in raising awareness, communicating business opportunities, providing a rich variety of information, promoting success cases, engaging new stakeholders and supporting the development of new user communities. The Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the development of the Digital Platform was published on EMITS under AO10402 on 28 July 2020 and will remain open until 12 October 2020.

For further information, please email

Business in Space Growth Network

The Market-Stimulation Programme Hub (MSP) will be developed by the implementation partner with a clear focus on a dedicated area of interest such as a specific target-market or challenge that can be justified with some preliminary market assessment and interest from relevant stakeholders. The main objective is to implement space-enabled commercial activities in alignment with the overall goal of the programme also taking into account the stakeholders in an effort to secure a more long-term engagement. The Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the MSP is intended for publication in October 2020.

For further information, please email

Upcoming events

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ExPeRT - Exploration Preparation, Research and Technology

The ExPeRT element of the European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P) has been created to coordinate and manage the development of studies and technologies for future Exploration missions. 

The Technology Push Requirements document defines activities in the Exploration application domain at ESA. It can be used as a reference for the definition of national technology work plans in some of the E3P Participating States, where national funding programmes are available. It can also be used to guide prioritisation of initiatives by European industry and ESA's General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) projects. The Technology Push Requirements sheets are not a specific proposal of work in ExPeRT. However, the activities that will be proposed in the ExPeRT work plan in E3P Period 2 will implement a subset of the technology requirement sheets set out in this document.

The document includes requirements for technology ‘push’. A technology ‘push’ activity for exploration is expected to result in a step-change or breakthrough (disruption) in a technology that may, in the future, facilitate exploration, but is not driven by a mission requirement or mission ‘pull’ already identified. Moreover, it is intended to foster innovative ideas from technical experts and allows high-level performance targets to be considered.

In 2021, the Technology Push Requirements document is intended to be updated to include ‘mission pull’ requirements derived from mission concepts studied in 2020.

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