RFI Call for Ideas and Interest in Cooperating on HydRON Demonstration System - Internet beyond the Cloud(s)


HydRONThis is an RFI (Request for Interest) Call for collecting ideas for shaping the HydRON Demonstration System (HydRON-DS) and for soliciting interest in view of potential cooperation and partnerships for the next Development phase (HydRON-DS phase B2/C/D/E). The ideas gathered via the present RFI campaign may feed the next ITT (Invitation to Tender) phase.


The RFI is addressed to:
•    Operators
•    Service Providers
•    Satellite / Payload Primes 
who are interested in teaming up with ESA and participating in the HydRON-DS project, covering Space and/or Ground Segments. (Hereafter in this document we will refer to those submitting ideas as ‘Respondents’).


HydRON (High thRoughput Optical Network) is a project within the ScyLight programme, and was first presented at the Ministerial Council in November 2019. The HydRON Project is implemented as part of the “Optical Communication – ScyLight ARTES Strategic Programme Line”. The Agency’s initiative, as represented in the HydRON vision below, is to enable the development and validation of the “Fibre in the Sky” or "Internet beyond the Cloud(s)" technology integrated in terrestrial networks at terabit-per-second capacity and led by European and Canadian industries. The project will support the next generation of institutional and commercial missions, requiring advanced communication capabilities which are currently unavailable.


A paradigm shift in satellite communications is now essential in order to keep pace with the continuous performance evolution of terrestrial high capacity networks. Market demands are evolving rapidly as more data-intensive services are set to be widely deployed, requiring new technologies, business models and cooperation. The satellite communications industry will need to meet these evolving requirements in order to maximise opportunities and be an active player across several market verticals identified in the deployment of 5G and beyond networks.

HydRON Vision is an Optical Transport Network (OTN) concept, based on the combination of multi-layered satellite architectures and the use of on-board switching, in combination with extremely high throughput Optical Ground Space Links (OSGL, including Optical Feeder Links (OFL)) and Optical Inter-Satellite Links (OISL). The HydRON network needs to converge with terrestrial high capacity networks. Use of innovative concepts for autonomous networks management and control (e.g., adoption of software defined networking (SDN) and network slicing/network function virtualisation (NS/NFV) solutions) are particularly important in guaranteeing the convergence of HyDRON with terrestrial OTN. HydRON Vision enables the convergence of terrestrial high-capacity networks and space systems.

HydRON Vision enables the convergence of terrestrial high-capacity networks and space systems.

This vision is being developed and coordinated by D/TIA (Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Directorate), in collaboration with other ESA Directorates like the D/EOP (Earth Observation) and the D/OPS (Operations) Directorates. 


The implementation of the full HydRON Vision is considered beyond the scope of the HydRON project, taking into account estimated financial envelope and effort. Instead, the objective of the HydRON project is to define, develop and validate a representative HydRON Demonstration System (HydRON-DS) reducing the complexity of a full system to key elements.

The HydRON project targets the implementation of the HydRON Demonstration System, HydRON-DS. Two parallel phase A/B1 studies are currently running (led by TAS-I and ADS-D respectively) and the next development phase (covering B2/C/D/E phases) will be proposed for implementation after the CM 2022 (ITT expected in 2023).

The HydRON-DS aims at the following three main objectives:

Objective 1: technology verification and end-to-end system demonstration
Objective 2: validation of operational concepts in support of Service Demonstration
Objective 3: provision of Service Demonstration in support of future Service (e.g., a
Minimum Viable Service (MVS))

HydRON-Leo-Geo-payloadThe proposed HydRON-DS aims at deploying the minimum number of elements necessary to demonstrate high throughput space OTN capability, to provide high-capacity data transport service and flexible network services to both space and ground assets.

The HydRON Vision envisages a level of performance of at least 3 orders of magnitude larger capacity compared with what is available today (Terabit/sec instead of Gigabit/sec). The HydRON-DS aims to demonstrate 100’s Gigabit/sec.

The HydRON-DS will be composed of:

•    a Space Segment deployed in multiple orbits, e.g., GEO and LEO 
•    a Ground Segment composed by multiple optical ground stations distributed worldwide. For example,
locations in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece are being considered for a European optical ground network.
•    HydRON-DS Control Centre responsible for orchestrating all HydRON-DS assets and ensuring inter-operability with high-capacity terrestrial networks.


The timeline of the present RFI Call is as follows:

Date (completed by)
Notification of Interest submission deadline
 29 Jun 2022
Bilateral Dialogue Phase
 29 Jun 2022 – 29 Jul 2022
RFI submission
 16 Sep 2022
 19 Sep 2022 – 30 Sep 2022  

The Agency reserves the right to modify, extend or shorten such timeline.   


The present RFI Call to cooperate on HydRON-DS will follow a four-step process:

Step-1: Submission of an Idea including the Notification of Interest (NoI) by interested respondents, in order to gain access to the HydRON-DS data package 

Step-2: Dialogue phase (Bilaterals)

Step-3: RFI submission, to be added to the Idea form already submitted in Step-1

Step-4: Clarification phase (Bilaterals)

The Phase B2/C/D/E ITT will follow later in 2023.

The application process is described in detail in “Request for Interest Call guidelines in Cooperating on HydRON-DS Phase B2/C/D/E”. 

HydRON RFI Step 3 is approaching and we look forward to receiving your full Proposals. The deadline is 16 Sep 2022, and the Proposals shall be submitted via this web based platform.

RFI Full Proposal Submission  


The Campaign is open for submissions to any Respondent in one of the following categories: Operators/Service Providers/Satellite and Payload Primes, and there are no constraints around specific locations or affiliations. Respondents registered in one of ESA Member States, Associate Member States or Cooperating States are particularly encouraged to respond.
Although not applicable to the present RFI, but in view of providing ideas for shaping the HydRON-DS phase B2/C/D/E ITT, it should be noted that ESA funding is only applicable to entities located in ESA Member or Associate or Cooperating States supporting the HydRON-DS Project (and the funding levels will be defined in the ITT for Phase B2/C/D/E). Respondents to this RFI, registered in one of the ESA Member/Associate/Cooperating States are invited to get in contact with the National Delegations involved in the proposed consortium geographical distribution.

The present RFI is a non-selective pre procurement initiative. Therefore, participation in future related procurement actions, namely the ITT for Phase B2/C/D/E, will not be restricted to those entities who respond to the present call.


Ideas, that is response proposals to this RFI, will be assessed in a non-selective process, and will be supported by pre-submission bilateral dialogues and post-submission bilateral clarifications.

The Agency will get inspiration from (but not be bound to) the best ideas collected in this RFI for the preparation of the next phase ITT.

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