Strategy For Introducing Innovation In Satcom Commercial Scenarios And Experimental Payloads Definitions

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The study has assessed possible avenues for facilitating the introduction of innovation in commercial Satcom scenarios. Following a comprehensive consultation with industry, the study team has leveraged stakeholder feedback and lessons learned to assess possible programmatic schemes, and through close interaction with ESA, helped shape a potential Artes initiative to facilitate the introduction of innovation in Satcom commercial business.

The study also gathered an initial portfolio of candidate items for a first flight opportunity in the short term (e.g. next 5 years), and developed a methodology to determine the optimal cost sharing among parties, including ESA, considering potential benefits and risks for each stakeholder involved in the first flight of an innovative item.

In the last 20 years, European satellite manufacturers and satellite operators emerged as leading players in the Satcom industry, thanks to strategic positioning and capabilities. It is remarkable that two of the leading four communications satellite manufacturers are European, and three of the big four Satcom operators are European/Canadian. A multitude of small and medium suppliers participate to the value chain. Innovation is instrumental to further develop if not maintain these positions.

The importance of In-Orbit-Validation for commercial Satcom and the competitiveness of the European/Canadian satellite industry is clear: Satcom operators and insurers are often reluctant to embrace new technology if it does not have a flight record and to bear the high financial and market risks related to possible failure of non-validated technology.

In this context, ESA has requested a study for the definition of a strategy for introducing innovation in Satcom commercial scenarios and experimental payloads definitions to explore and assess different ways of achieving In-Orbit-Validation via viable partnership models between ESA and interested industry stakeholders.

The objective of this study is to determine if and how ESA can play a significant role in IOV to help filling the gap in important technology innovations in the market place.

Another objective of the study was to identify candidate items for in-orbit validation missions and develop a methodology for identifying partnership schemes that can help move these candidate items from the demonstration/prototype stage to full commercialization.


This study has identified a potential framework gap in Artes where funds are available to push technologies up to EQM/TRL6 but not available for a first flight in the context of a ‘Generic Artes Program’.

A stakeholder consultation with industry was carried out in two main waves involving respectively 42 and 54 stakeholders.

The ‘need of flight heritage’ was characterised as the difficulty for European/Canadian technology to gain first flight opportunity as a result of factors.

Industry is ready to enter into co-funding with ESA as part of an Artes initiative for an innovative item’ first flight and to be more prone to bear costs that are either internal costs or closer to the business.

The Study has analysed various potential Artes initiatives both as technology push and market pull, such as dedicated IOV missions, Hosted Payload on commercial missions, Large PPPs, and Atlas initiative.

Caption: Positioning of Potential Artes Initiatives based on Level of Operator Funding and Increasing Level of Market Pull

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In the course of the study we also developed a methodology that aims at determining the optimum balance of costs, risks and benefits for ESA and industry in order to understand when an Artes initiative is advisable, and to identify situations where the Operator’s benefits could off-set costs and risks whereby the Operator should be in a position to ‘bite the bullet’ without the need of an Artes initiative. In short, the methodology has been developed on the basis of a figure of merit based on market value, and innovation value, to provide an understanding of the merit to co-finance the first flight of an item.

The methodology, fed with all 170 suggested candidate items proved useful in showing how ESA could balance its contribution across stakeholders up within the limits of cost eligibility set forth for relevant cost elements (PFM development, accommodation study, accommodation activities on one hand, and embarkation, delta launch costs and in-orbit operations on the other hand).

Further, we estimated the cost of a first flight including costs from PFM development to early IOT operation for many items, and estimated the overall budget needs for an Artes flight heritage initiative at ATLAS conditions (in the timeframe of 2013-2018).


The recommendations on ESA’s role has been the result of an analysis backed by a comprehensive stakeholder consultation involving most of the European / Canadian players of the sector.

The Atlas initiative should provide industry with a co-financing scheme to help with providing first flight opportunities to innovative technologies.

The scheme offers possibilities for industry through an Open Call to get co-financing for eligible costs directly related to the development and embarkation of innovative technologies in commercial Satcom missions.


The study involved a large number of stakeholders of the value chain, from equipment manufacturers, prime manufacturers, Satcom operators, satellite service providers, launch companies as well as space insurance underwriters, to understand their views, concerns, interest, as well as feedback on interim results of the study.


The study comprised of 6 tasks:

  • Task 1 first consisted in identifying previous, on going or planned flight initiatives worldwide involving innovative technologies or solutions.
  • Task 2 gathered the suggestions and constraints from the possible stakeholders involved in IOV missions.
  • Task 3 consists in deriving a way/methodology of trading off different scenarios in order to eventually define viable candidate IOV items and schemes.
  • Task 4 provided key outputs with preliminary recommendations on various types of IOV scenarios.
  • Task 5 consisted in budget assessment for the Artes Atlas initiative.
  • Task 6 drew high level conclusions and recommendations on the possible ways forward to further pursue an ESA initiative for an IOV programme.
Current status

The Study is now complete. The study concluded with a set of recommendations for an ESA Artes flight heritage initiative ‘ATLAS’ defined on the basis of industry wide stakeholder consultation, including suggestions on complementary Artes initiatives (e.g. a small technology demonstration mission in LEO to push disruptive innovation), a comprehensive database with more than 170 candidate items (that can be a precursor to a Catalogue promotion tool for ESA) and a methodology to determine the optimum balance of costs based on risks and benefits, which could now be used in a trial phase with the first Artes Open Calls.

Overall, the study contributed to ESA shaping its Artes Atlas initiative and provided recommendations in order to refine its implementation.

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