In-orbit demonstration/validation (IOD/IOV) is a powerful enabler for the introduction of innovative Satcom products and services into a highly demanding environment, where acquired flight heritage is a pre-requisite for operational acceptance. Today commercial and institutional entities wishing to demonstrate in orbit their innovative products and services face a high barrier to entry. The “offer to fly” is based on isolated initiatives, making access to space infrequent, lengthy, mission specific and not optimized for Satcom; and as a consequence costly and with long schedules.
ESA is preparing an initiative named “Pioneer”, which aims to lower those barriers and to facilitate in-orbit test flights for innovative services, applications, systems and technologies, by providing affordable, timely and efficient access to space.
With Pioneer, ESA is looking for private entities, interested in becoming one-stop-shop IOD/IOV service providers. Those “Space Access Providers” (SAPs), will offer to both public and private entities affordable and effective access to space for testing, validating and/or operating any of the following: new applications and services; system or technology demonstrations; and new product validation and qualification.
The prime objective of Pioneer is therefore to support the emergence of SAPs.
To achieve this objective, within the scope of the Pioneer initiative ESA plans to support:
the potential SAPs in their efforts to initiate or enhance their IOD/IOV service offer and market;
the development and set up of the entire SAP service delivery chain, including space and ground control segment, telecom segment and operations. This includes the provider(s) of the building blocks of the infrastructure needed by the SAP to enhance their solutions (satellites, satcom functions, ground segment, etc). With frequent flights, Pioneer presents the prospect of producing many recurrent items once the IOD/IOV services reach a mature volume. This shall allow transition to an industrialisation phase for some solutions that today are still at the development stage, in particular for nano, micro and mini satellites platforms, or any other Satcom solutions consistently needed for the demonstration flights; and
the entities proposing actual IOD/IOV cases.
At this stage the Agency is seeking expressions of interest from any of three types of entity: those wishing to take the SAP role; those wishing to provide building blocks of the SAP infrastructure; and those wishing to present candidate Satcom demonstration cases.
Interested parties are invited to contact the Agency at the following email address: Pioneer@esa.int by 25th April at the latest, indicating in not more than two pages of A4 the general nature of their interest. Those entities will be contacted for further information on Pioneer and to further assess their interest. If interest is confirmed, an Outline Proposal template will be provided for the entities to complete and submit by 24th May 2016.
Based on the responses received and after subsequent discussion with its Member States, ESA may decide to submit a proposal to the 2016 ESA Ministerial Council (which meets in early December).
Image: sunset as seen from the ISS, 21 March 2016; credit: ESA/Tim Peake