ESA title
ESA Discovery & Preparation
Enabling & Support

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ESA / Enabling & Support / Preparing for the Future / Discovery and Preparation

The Discovery & Preparation elements of ESA's Discovery, Preparation and Technology Development (DPTD) activities carry out preparatory analysis and lay the groundwork for the Agency’s short- to medium-term future activities.

ESA Preparation
ESA Preparation

Our objectives include:

  • Contributing to the formulation of the overall ESA strategy
  • Studying the feasibility of new mission concepts up for selection
  • Preparing and demonstrating the case for the approval and funding of new optional projects and programmes
  • Implementing interdisciplinary projects for paradigm shifts and game changing research
  • Performing early “blue sky research” on topics that are recognised as being potential breakthrough ideas but are not implementable in the next ten years
  • Supporting the evolution of ESA by analysing and testing new working methodologies

Discovery & Preparation activities explore a wide diversity of topics that run across the entire spectrum of the Agency’s work. Each one typically lasts one to two years, sufficient time for an in-depth exploration of each subject.

The activities undertaken by Discovery & Preparation provide ESA and its Member States with the necessary information on which to base their decisions about the implementation of new programmes and the future direction of space activities.

Mission assessment studies

Concurrent design of space hardware
Concurrent design of space hardware

Discovery & Preparation performs mission feasibility studies that provide ESA Member States and the scientific community with the necessary information for the selection of new mission concepts, as well as for the approval and funding of new optional programmes. We also perform internal mission concept assessments via the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF).

Discovery activities

In 2019, ESA Discovery started sourcing ideas for new activities from industry, academia and the general public through the Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP). Campaigns for specific ideas and more open Channels are regularly launched, and ideas submitted to these are reviewed. The most novel are invited to submit full proposals to be funded via one of three implementation schemes.

ESA Discovery
ESA Discovery
  • Studies: Either as a precursor for technology development or to assess the feasibility of systems for space, studies emphasise the novelty of a concept and are carried out by universities or industry.
  • Early technology projects: These are typically novel, low Technology Readiness Level activities of potential interest to space applications that aim to support the fast introduction of disruptive innovations by combining the experience of research communities, academia and industry.
  • Research co-sponsorships: Experience has shown that very innovative ideas are often generated by universities. Activities under this heading last between six months and three years, and include PhD and postdoctoral projects co-funded by ESA, a host university and possibly industry.

The Nebula Library

The exploratory nature of Discovery & Preparation studies means that preserving their outcomes is vital for ensuring that the knowledge and experienced gained is maximised and built upon in future work. This expertise preservation is ensured though the Nebula Library, which provides access to all the final deliverables of every previous Discovery & Preparation study.

The Nebula Library makes information about previous Discovery & Preparation research freely and easily accessible to anyone who may be interested, including industry and the general public. It was developed as a powerful and flexible tool for exploring past research.

The Discovery & Preparation team

Discovery & Preparation is part of the Future Preparation and Strategic Studies Office, located in ESA's Headquarters in Paris. This Office is part of the Systems, Software and In-Orbit Demonstration Department within the Directorate of Technical and Quality Management.

Leopold Summerer
Head of the Advanced Concepts and Studies Office
Leopold.Summerer @

Paola Semeraro
Project Controller
Paola.Semeraro @

Moritz Fontaine
Discovery & Preparation Officer
Moritz.Fontaine @

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