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Partners for Space Exploration

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ESA’s commercial partnership with European industry facilitates space exploration and promotes a broader utilisation of the International Space Station. It also fosters new technology that could boost future ESA missions to the Moon and Mars.

In 2015, ESA issued a permanent open Call to industry to participate in the Agency’s Space Exploration Strategy via innovative partnerships.

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. A white paper provides background information on this, and further information is available here.

ESA's Business in Space Growth Network will present plenty of opportunities for stakeholders to engage in the development of an incubator-like programme that aims to stimulate the market for commercial applications in low Earth orbit and beyond. In view of an upcoming Invitation to Tender, and with the aim to find a suitable external implementation partner for this market stimulation programme, ESA is organising an online information session on 16 June 2020Register on our website before 12 June 2020, if you would like to attend.

Low Earth orbit

ESA’s Space 4.0 strategy aims to bring about the transition of low Earth orbit activities from being a government-run laboratory to being a commercially driven human and robotic spaceflight economy. 

Under a call for Co-funded studies on platforms and facilities in low Earth orbit, new partners are encouraged to work on orbital infrastructures and transportation for affordable research and novel applications.  

Four partnerships, the ICE Cubes service, Bartolomeo, Commercial Lunar Mission Support Services (CLMSS) and Bioreactor Express have been established under the permanent call for partnerships:

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. 

Bartolomeo: An all-in-one service for the space station

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 2019, 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. 

These services strengthen the competitiveness of the space and non-space industrial base, stimulates R&D, and integrates innovative solutions with ESA space exploration missions. 

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 2 million km. 

“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.  

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.

Space Exploration strategy

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.” 

Call for proposals

ISS exploitation

Announcement of Opportunity: Commercial Exploitation of ETC (European Transport Carrier) Replacement on ISS Columbus

ESA is preparing an upgrade of the passive Columbus D4 rack position currently occupied by the European Transport Carrier (ETC). Based on extended accommodation needs for further Class 2 payloads in Columbus, this location will be upgraded to an active rack location/platform. This new Columbus infrastructure item is named 'ETC Replacement' aimed to provide basic resources such as power, thermal control, and physical accommodation to current and future experiment and technology demonstration devices. Data routing will be achieved via MPCC.

Commercial development and exploitation

The ETC Replacement is planned to be developed in the frame of an Invitation to Tender (ITT), published on EMITS under the new reference AO 1-10351/20/NL/PG/eg (re-issued) with a deadline for submissions no later than 6 July 2020 (extended). At the same time, ESA is interested in the commercial development and exploitation of the ETC Replacement facility as a commercial service, however the preferred approach has not been selected.

Under this Announcement of Opportunity (AO), the Agency is soliciting proposals for the commercial development and exploitation of services offered by the ETC Replacement. The private sector is invited to make a partnership proposal for the ETC commercial development and exploitation, by responding to the ESA Call for Partnerships (CFP) mentioned in the table here below, and no later than 6 July 2020 (extended). Partnership proposals shall include a credible business plan, demonstrating that the intended commercial service will fulfil an identified market demand and be operational in a sufficient time frame. The partnership proposal shall be based on the required capabilities outlined in the related ITT documentation.

Tenderers are informed that a potential proposal submitted to this commercial AO must be self-standing (i.e. development and exploitation) and must not rely on an ESA development industrial contract in the frame of the above-mentioned ITT. Likewise, a proposal submitted in reply to the ITT must be a self-standing proposal, irrespective of any potential submission of a partnership proposal in reply to this commercial AO.

The proposals submitted in response to the ITT and to this commercial AO will be evaluated separately in accordance with the respective applicable procedures. A final decision on whether to award either an industrial contract as a result of the ITT or to enter into a pilot phase for a Commercial Partnership with a private entity as an outcome of this commercial AO will be taken by the Agency with a view to achieve the best combination of technical and financial return from the utilisation of the ETC Replacement, with due regard for risks and programmatic considerations.

Closing date: 6 July 2020 (extended).

In view of the general reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak, interested proposers are informed that the deadline for submission has been extended to 6 July 2020 at 13:00 CEST

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

ESA is setting up a Business in Space Growth Network (BSGN) to stimulate demand, growth and long-term development in a new low Earth orbit and lunar economy. A white paper provides background information on this, and further information is available here.

ESA's Business in Space Growth Network will present plenty of opportunities for stakeholders to engage in the development of an incubator-like programme that aims to stimulate the market for commercial applications in low Earth orbit and beyond. In anticipation of the publication of an Invitation to Tender in the near future, and with the aim to find a suitable external implementation partner for this market stimulation programme, ESA is organising an online information session on 16 June 2020. Register on our website before 12 June 2020, if you would like to attend.

Register: by 12 June 2020.

Post-ISS

Co-funded studies on platforms and facilities in low Earth orbit

As the operational life of the International Space Station comes to an end in the next decade, new partners are welcome to work on orbital infrastructures and transportation for affordable research and novel applications.

The invitation to tender (Ref:AO9038) is published on ESA EMITS (http://emits.sso.esa.int). The deadline for submissions is 31 December 2019.

Upcoming events

Business in Space Growth Network online event

Online information session on 16 June 2020 

ESA is holding an online information session to share information about the opportunities within ESA's Business in Space Growth Network to join in the development of an incubator-like programme that aims to stimulate the market for commercial applications in low Earth orbit and beyond.

This event precedes an upcoming Invitation to Tender, and aims to find a suitable external implementation partner for this market stimulation programme.

Register on our website: by 12 June 2020

Useful Information

Exploration Partnerships:

 

Documents:

 

Past events:

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