In mid-2018, ESA launched its new Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP) by challenging colleagues to put forward ideas that addressed the topic of Space Safety, including planetary defence, space weather and space debris, with a special focus on the removal of small pieces of space debris. Many brilliant ideas were proposed with some being so relevant, novel and promising that ESA will invite industry to develop them further.
Space infrastructure is crucial for the modern world – for long-distance communications, monitoring the environment, navigation and much more – but with more missions being sent into orbit comes an increasing urgency to tackle the problems posed by space debris. As debris has the potential to cause damage to both space infrastructure, people and property, it is becoming vital that we take steps to reduce it.
“Through this campaign, we were particularly interested in ideas to tackle space debris measuring less than ten centimetres across,” explains Ian Carnelli, Manager of ESA’s Discovery & Preparation activities. “This type of debris is especially difficult to deal with – it’s really difficult to track and monitor but can still pose significant problems.”
Discovery & Preparation will incorporate the most innovative ideas into its workplan for the coming year. Published through ESA’s EMITS system, Invitations to Tender will offer funding and support to advance the concepts further. Additional information on open and planned procurements is also available on the Discovery & Preparation Dashboard, and upcoming invitations to tender will be publicised in the future.
Ideas open to development would focus on investigating novel techniques to deflect both small and large space debris, looking into designing satellites to be recyclable, and even modifying existing satellites to support ESA’s planetary defence ambitions as well as debris removal.
“In view of the increasing relevance of space safety, and the new challenges that continue to arise within this field, we look forward to including these new activities in the Discovery & Preparation workplan,” continues Ian.
ESA’s Space Safety & Security programme covers space weather, planetary defence and space debris and aims to protect Earth, humanity and infrastructure from dangers originating in space. It is only in recent decades that we have grasped the dangers that come with our location within the Solar System, and as technology advances, it is only now that we enter a period in which we can actually act to keep ourselves safe.
ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform is now open to the public, providing individuals and businesses with the opportunity to collaborate with ESA experts and contribute to the future of space research. It is run through Discovery & Preparation, which lays the groundwork for ESA’s short- to medium-term future activities.