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EDF-2022-RA-SPACE-RSS: Responsive space system 

The general objective of this research topic is to pave the way towards a future European responsive space system able to place small satellites in various types of orbits within a short notice in order to address specific operational needs, including tactical ones, and capability gaps stemming from shortage, failures and damages of existing space assets. This is particularly relevant in the field of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and satellite communication (SATCOM) where space assets have to be continuously operational and available to monitor and react to risks and events. 

Such a responsive space system will enhance the resilience and autonomy of the Member States, Norway and of the European Union in the fields of ‘access to space’ and ‘space capabilities for defence applications. 

The specific objective of this topic is to define the concept of operations (CONOPS) of such a responsive space system and to identify and compare suitable and affordable architectures and solutions for the end-to-end system. In order to be able to provide mission critical responsiveness in terms of reconstitution, replenishment or augmentation of space assets, the responsive solutions need to be considered within a broader space defence ecosystem. In this respect, the multiple logistical challenges required by an end-to-end system that needs to operate at a tactical pace should also be taken into account. 

Project proposals must address collaborative defence research on the CONOPS and architecture of a responsive space system composed of a launch infrastructure (including fixed sites and/or mobile carriers), launch vehicles and spacecraft (satellite platforms and payloads) concepts as well as the ground segments and stations needed to operate the launcher and the satellite/payload. Project proposals must consider various options for each component of the system based on existing solutions, adapted solutions and/or new developments. In particular, terrestrial, maritime or airborne launch solutions must be considered. 

The following tasks must be performed as part of the mandatory activities (studies) of the project:

  • consolidation of CONOPS from end-users, from user request for launch and preparation of the launch to ground and space segment interaction during launch and orbital phases;
  • identification of main mission use cases for the responsive space system;
  • preliminary analysis of the applicable regulatory framework (g., compliance with NOTAM7/NOTMAR8 requirements, launch security and safety requirements including stage re-entry, mission abort…);
  • definition of the overall conceptual architecture for the end-to-end system and associated high level requirements; the system must include the following subsystems:
    • the launch infrastructure ensuring the purposes of launch preparation, launch pad and launch range (including fixed sites and/or mobile carriers);
    • the launch vehicle (rocket);
    • the spacecraft composed of satellite platforms and of a family of sensors dedicated to missions;
    • ground segments for the launcher, the spacecraft, including fixed/mobile ground stations for space data reception and the necessary means of encryption;
  • identification of high-level requirements for the launch infrastructure and of suitable launch zones to launch terrestrial, maritime or airborne systems on short notice:
    • identification of suitable starting points (where the carrier departs) and launch areas (where the launch vehicle departs). Starting points must consider terrestrial, maritime or airborne mobile carriers;
    • this must include an overview and comparison of all existing and new planned launch sites having assembly, integration and test (AIT) and storage facilities and possibility to host mobile carriers in the EU or associated countries with their individual pros and cons (e.g. vertical, horizontal, maritime launch and airborne launch concepts; safety und ecological implications; suitability for one or more launch providers; reachability by truck, airplane, train;; reachable orbits; security measures to handle defence systems);
    • this task must consider phases from pre-flight to mission preparation and execution (including management of prepositioned payloads, propellant loading systems, etc.);
  • identification of high-level requirements for the launch vehicle:
    • including volume under fairing, standardization requirements (including fairing interface), propulsion type, injection precision and required deltaV, operational life expectancy;
    • identification of high-level requirements for the spacecraft:
    • types and related performances (minimum standards);
    • standardisation, affordability and modularity/flexibility should be part of the analysis;
    • ability to be merged with the orbital upper stage should be looked at;
  • identification of high-level requirements and definition for the ground segments and stations needed to operate the launcher and the satellite mission (platform and payload);
    • this task should include analysis of security requirements (encryption);
    • this task should also include a preliminary analysis of the sharing and booking mechanism for the system;
  • identification and analysis of existing solutions able to meet the requirements and of needs for adaptations or for new research and development actions with their associated roadmap;
  • costs vs benefits analysis (informed by CONOPS and architecture definitions) of the different options identified;
    • comparison of the proposed options in terms of costs / coverage of use cases and associated performances / safety constraints / logistics constraints / other implementation constraints / potential of evolution (e.g., reachable orbits, increased mass…);
    • the analysis must take into account the lifecycle cost including launch infrastructure, launch vehicle, spacecraft (satellite platforms and payloads), ground segments, including all required ground facilities for prepositioned payloads, pre-flight operations including propellant loading, cryogenic (if needed) storage solutions, safety storage facilities for solid, hybrid or liquid propulsion, end-to-end maintenance, repair and operations;
    • the analysis must also take into account the logistical aspects and include preliminary technical and logistical trade-offs between propulsion solutions;
  • preliminary requirements review (PRR) guided by the end-users (from Members States and Norway).

The following tasks may be performed as part of optional activities (design) of the project:

  • simulation of the achievable responsiveness (end-to-end performances) of selected options for selected mission use cases / scenarios;
  • preliminary design of selected sub-systems (to be proposed by the applicants).

Functional requirements

The responsive space system is expected to meet the following requirements:

  • time between request for launch and positioning into orbit should be less than 72 hours including flight range safety measures. Time to operational data delivery can be shorter, depending on the precision of orbit injection, the type of orbital propulsion, the type of sensors and related calibration in space;
  • ability to reach any low earth orbital plane, from equatorial to sun-synchronous polar orbits, while minimizing the operating and logistical constraints (operable from various types of areas);
  • ability to place a satellite between 20 kg and 200 kg into an orbit of at least 400 km.

Expected impact

The action should produce the following expected impacts:

  • set the basis for the development of a responsive space capability not yet available at European level;
  • creation of a sovereign supply chain in Europe for defence capabilities in the domain of responsive space systems;
  • leveraging the European defence technological and industrial base in the domains of launch infrastructure (including mobile carriers), rockets and satellite platforms and sensors;
  • extension of EU launch solutions portfolio and strengthening of the EU autonomy in this field.

7  Notice to air missions.

8 Notice to mariners.


EDF-2022-DA-SPACE-ISR: Innovative multi-sensor space-based Earth observation capabilities towards persistent and reactive ISR 

This topic aims at developing an affordable constellation of small satellites, including its ground segments able to handle various types of sensor payloads (e.g., optical video, low light, infrared, hyperspectral, RADAR, SIGINT) for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) applications. Such a constellation would complement high-end existing military capabilities while allowing responsive and smart tasking and data collection for near real-time tactical use.

This topic may also pave the way towards a collective and concerted approach regarding a future operational European Earth observation capability for ISR applications.

The specific objective of this topic is to define the overall architecture of the constellation, with particular attention to miniaturization, responsiveness, affordability, and complementarity with on-going EU and national projects, and to develop the associated components (sensors, platforms, ground segments and other key sub-systems), providing global and reactive coverage to address Member States, associated countries and EU needs in terms of innovative ISR capabilities and near real time intelligence. 

One of the challenges is to achieve high performance payloads compatible with small satellites, in order to procure an affordable constellation that can federate European Member States and Norway around a shared capability. In this context, industry will have to propose a development that leads to an affordable solution in terms of non-recurring and recurring costs. Indeed, high revisit capability and need for variety of sensors inherently requires deploying a constellation(s) of assets: the proposed development must therefore particularly look into miniaturised, mutual and/or standard components for the satellite platforms and payloads in order to reduce the costs, and into solutions for high data rate transmission and processing. 

The topic will also have to address the challenge of ensuring that the proposed solution can be adapted to various forms of cooperation (at transnational and/or multi-agency level) to build, following the EDF project, a full-fledge multi-user and multi-sensor constellation, be its components and/or the full constellation jointly or nationally procured.

27 Synthetic aperture radar. 

28 Signal intelligence. 

Project proposals must address the development of a European space-based Earth observation multi-sensor constellation of small satellites for ISR applications. It must include the definition of the concept of operations (CONOPS) for such capability, its overall architecture including system level activities (e.g., choice of orbits, inter-satellite links (ISL), data relay satellites, ground stations, raw data management and processing and ISR post-processing analysis) and the definition of each component of the end-to-end system, composed of the satellite platform, the ISR payloads and the ground segment(s). 

Project proposals must consider various options for each component of the system based on existing solutions, adapted solutions and/or new developments. Different development stages can be considered for the project, depending on the current maturity level for each component or ISR payload. Synergies with industrial technology roadmaps and with national, multinational and EU programmes, studies and projects (e.g., EDIDP, EDA, EU space programme/secure connectivity) are also encouraged. 

Project proposals must not duplicate the work requested in 2020 in the call topic EDIDP- MSC-MFC-2020 Multifunctional capabilities, including space based surveillance and tracking, able to enhance the maritime awareness (discover, locate, identify, classify and counteract the threats)29.

29 https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/opportunities/topic-details/edidp-msc-mfc-2020 

The following tasks must be performed as part of the mandatory activities of the project:

  • Studies

the development of the CONOPS, possibly considering existing space ISR capabilities in order to develop a robust and secure system. The CONOPS must:

    • include the description of how the user interacts with the ISR constellation, and how relevant parts of the tasking, collection, processing, exploitation, and dissemination (TCPED) process are done,
    • including in terms of multi-users resource sharing and automation of the mission planning/image chain to reduce the operation activities and costs and improve timeliness of information;
    • be developed considering current and expected threats, in order to steer the feasibility analysis and the design phase in terms of integrity, confidentiality and availability requirements at both space and ground segment levels;
    • investigate the use of existing private and governmental assets to define and tune its development;
    • consider as an objective to reduce the manpower needed to operate the system from mission planning to data processing, taking also into account the limited resources available on-board small satellites;
    • where possible, take into consideration as a starting point, for the end- user consultations, the needs and requirements already commonly agreed by the Member States and Norway.

the consolidation of the mission requirements;

  • Design

the design and definition of the end-to-end capability (constellation architecture, type of satellites and sensors, associated ground segments, including operations support tools, interfaces) meeting mission requirements at least up to the Preliminary Design Review (PDR); as part of this task, the following elements must be considered:

    • the type of constellation and orbits (e.g., sun-synchronous, elliptical, inclined orbits) to maximise revisit over the areas of interest as defined in the CONOPS, while allowing for non-predictable patterns and/or observation of a given scene under a variety of conditions;
    • the type of sensors on each satellite and on different satellites to optimize collection and processing of data with respect to the type of objects of interest (ability to detect, classify, identify) and operational/environmental conditions (day/night, clouds, presence of threats…);
    • the ability to re-task for gathering additional information, for example by tipping and cueing on other satellites of the constellation and/or interfacing with external systems;
    • the technical and operational architecture, including procedures and autonomy;

the design and definition of the associated components (platform, sensors and ground segments) and key enabling technologies;

    • innovative ISR payloads (e.g., optical video, low light, infrared, hyperspectral, SAR, SIGINT, electro-magnetic spectrum monitoring)
    • and associated mutualised and/or standardized platforms compatible with a small satellite format while achieving required performances;
    • flexible, scalable and modular processing capacity (at space and ground segments level) allowing the implementation and testing of a variety of functionalities such as, for example, cloud detection and re-tasking, change detection, target detection, classification and recognition, resolution enhancement techniques, data compression and/or selection of area of interest in order to reduce required downlink bandwidth;
    • ways to speed up satellite tasking, data delivery and information production (e.g., on board processing, autonomy, inter satellite link (ISL), use of space-based data relay infrastructure, ground stations and gateways and developing innovative communication systems);
    • scalable and modular architectures for the space and ground segments, defining mutual/standardized interfaces and building blocks and thus allowing for easy scalability of the system as well as modular exchange of components for adapting to different missions and operational needs;
    • ground stations and dissemination network design and alternatives (e.g., higher frequency band) to improve the data rate and compensate the low on-board transmitting power and automatic allocation of contact opportunities;
    • ISR data processing solutions (e.g., making use of AI30-based and/or high-performance computing technologies) in order to obtain a better situational awareness, considering the reuse and complementarity of functionalities and infrastructures available in the EU and developing dedicated interoperability layers to allow a secure and effective exchange of data among the EU Member States and associated countries;
    • definition of generic import/export functions and formats in view of possible interface with external systems such as governmental and commercial systems and database;
    • encryption means both for the downlink and the uplnk, in order to provide secure communication links for military, governmental or any other application that requires confidentiality.

The following tasks may be performed as part of the optional activities of the project:

  • Prototype
    • the development of a prototype for selected payloads and/or subsystems;
  • Testing and qualification
    • testing (test campaign) and qualification (up to qualification review) of selected payloads and/or subsystems.

Functional requirements 

The capability to be developed should meet the following functional requirements: 

  • high revisit: develop a scalable solution allowing to accommodate a growing number of satellites (same or different payloads) within the constellation, ultimately to reach, for some use cases, intra-hour revisit; 
  • affordable very high spatial resolution: achieve resolution below 0.5 m with small satellites for optical visible video/still imagery and SAR (e.g., low altitude orbit, on- board processing);
  • operational timeliness improvement: develop the capability to dynamically (re)task a satellite (e.g., within a few minutes); ability to perform automatic tipping and cueing; reduce downlink latency and enhance data downlink throughput; for some use cases, reduce time between tasking of the constellation and delivery of the relevant information to the end-user (e.g., tactical use); 
  • highly digital architecture allowing advanced and flexible on-board processing: enable autonomous extraction of actionable information from the captured imagery and data, and automatic preparation of complementary tasking of the constellation(e.g. autonomous decision to lock image over a defined object or area of interest pin- pointing), even with different acquisition modes (e.g. video) for target detection and analysis (classification, recognition, identification) depending on task/mission, including SIGINT; 
  • space-to-ground efficiency: allow both high data rate downlink and optimisation of downlink efficiency, where relevant making use of on-board processing capabilities; 
  • new space imagery and SIGINT applications for Defence and Security: develop new sensors, processes and processing compatible with a small satellite and allowing to provide new type of products of interest for Defence and Security; 
  • big data analysis: to develop a system that could support Big Data management to achieve high-speed analysis (including fusion) and streaming of multi-sensor data for ISR purposes;
  • interoperability: develop a system that is inter-operable with external systems (e.g., with interfaces allowing information exchanges across participating Member States and associated countries and with the EU); 
  • security requirements: develop a system that takes into account the necessary needs for integrity, confidentiality and availability (this should include affordable crypto for up- and down-links) and the multi-user dimension of the constellation (while anticipating possible future access by other institutional users for civilian missions (e.g., security or emergency). 

Expected impact 

Such new ISR capability will have a very high impact over the tactical means of the European stakeholders before and during a crisis, in term of: 

  • reactivity (rapid availability of information after request); 
  • added value of the information collected (nature, resolution and complementarity with other ISR sources). 

The nature of the solution (constellation of small satellites allowing sharing of resources between EU Members States, Norway and other users) will also allow shared or joint procurement and in-service support while preserving a sufficient level of sovereignty.

30 Artificial intelligence 


EDF-2022-DA-SPACE-SBMEW: Space-based missile early warning

Taking into full consideration the ongoing EU, Member States and Norway funded activities in this domain, the topic general objective is to contribute to the further development of a European space-based early warning capability against various types of missile threats: ballistic, hypersonic and anti-satellites (ASAT). This topic will focus on the one hand, on the consolidation of the overall system architecture and on the other hand, on the development of the critical technologies needed for such capability.

The specific challenges of the topic reside in the following considerations:

  • recent developments and tests of ballistic missiles, hypersonic gliders and ASAT missiles have recalled the eminent and rising threat to the European people arising from those capabilities;
  • there are currently neither sufficient European sensor capabilities for detection and tracking of such threats nor European capabilities available for their interception;
  • until today, Europe is dependent on third-party systems for space-based early warning;
  • European capabilities for ballistic missile defence (BMD) and against ASAT threats – e.g., sensor capabilities like space-based early warning and the corresponding distribution of object tracking information – are addressed in capability plans of several EU Member States and associated countries, but only partially developed and not yet operational;
  • sovereignty and safety are essential for the EU as well as the capability to act, based on its own intelligence, and the ability to defend, based on its own decisions;
  • the detection and interception of ballistic and hypersonic threats are complex and costly and would benefit from a cooperative approach at EU level;
  • an integrated and inclusive approach to study and develop solutions in a collaborative and coordinated way using the expertise and capacities available in the EU (both at industry and government level), including dedicated national spending, will contribute to a better and sustainable closing of the capability gap in this field.

Project proposals must address activities needed to further develop a fully European missile early warning and tracking capability that would lead to an autonomy in the field of threat assessment and theatre defence and the ability to provide a system that is coherent, complementary and interoperable with other systems, including non-EU ones (e.g., NATO systems).

More precisely, project proposals must address:

  • the implementation study of a feasible space-based missile early warning (SBMEW) system and its concept of operations (CONOPS), taking into account existing development plans;
  • the identification, analysis and mitigation of the critical technical and technological risks associated with the development in the EU of a SBMEW capability, taking into account the status of existing assets within European industry that can contribute to such capability.

The following tasks must be performed as part of the mandatory activities of the project:

  • Studies:
    • consolidation of the SBMEW mission, system requirements and architecture as a basis for an implementation plan for all intended objectives of the system;
    • maturation of the SBMEW system CONOPS (if possible, supported by simulations), especially addressing the mission objectives, the strategies, tactics, policies and constraints affecting the system operation, the involved organisations, activities and interactions among operators, users from Member States and Norway, and their respective roles and responsibilities;
    • as an optional task: assessment, via models and simulation, of the added value of new imaging technologies (g., hyperspectral) for identification of threats;
  • Design:
    • definition, development and exploitation of SBMEW system simulations addressing all SBMEW missions, allowing assessment of real time and non- real time performances of the system and interoperability with external systems, including C231 (e.g., NATO, EU and national C2, radars, BMD and SSA32 systems);
    • maturation and de-risking/developments of SBMEW critical subsystems and technologies (especially the detectors, the pointing mechanisms, the cooling mechanisms, the on-board computing, the sun protection and the secure satellites communication and control system), including tests of demonstrators to achieve a level of technological readiness allowing the launch of the real capability in space by end of the decade;
    • update of programmatic elements (e.g., costs, planning, risks, cooperation scheme) for the development of a European SBMEW capability.

Functional requirements

The proposed development should fulfil the following requirements:

  • the architecture of the SBMEW system should be composed of:
    • a space segment;
    • a ground segment (mission and control);
    • a user segment
  • the CONOPS should address:
    • operations planning, real time operations and deferred time operations;
    • intelligence missions;
    • joint operations with non-space sensor systems for launches observation and space surveillance;
    • joint missions with external sensors and effectors for early warning and missile defence;
  • the SBMEW simulations should include for all missions:
    • an integrated representation of the threat;
    • an integrated representation of the environment, including the presence of clouds and sun impact;
    • an integrated representation of the space sensors and platforms including their tasking;
    • on-board and on-ground image and data processing algorithms which should:
    • be able to represent the detection of the threats by the space sensors considered;
    • be able to measure and estimate the trajectory of all detected launches (including related accuracy/uncertainty and launch departure point and predicted impact points);
    • allow to contribute to aggressor identification and to recognise the detected ballistic missiles and launchers within a catalogue of known objects or to identify them as unknown;
    • a demonstration, against all threats, of an end-to-end analysis of SBMEW real- time and non-real-time performances with synthetic data for consolidation of the mission and observation requirements;
    • a demonstration of interoperability with external systems (e.g., NATO, EU and national C2, radars, BMD and SSA systems);
    • an interface with external data providers (e.g., military SSA catalogues);
    • demonstration of agility of the system to cope with operational mission change/ evolution;
  • the SBMEW risk mitigation activities of the critical subsystems and technologies should include:
    • study and stepwise breadboard if required, to achieve sufficient technological readiness level;
    • detectors;
    • cooling mechanisms;
    • pointing mechanisms;
    • sun protection;
    • on-board computing;
    • Satellite reliable secure command/control and Early Warning Communications

Expected impact

Implementation of a European collaboration on this topic will:

  • allow sharing of resources and building a common operational view on ballistic, hypersonic and ASAT missile threat assessment;
  • augment dramatically EU political power and international credibility towards superpowers for control of international regulations, control of international treaties, intelligence on missile technology development in specific countries and if necessary operational theatre defence capability.

Beside the establishment of a European sovereignty, it can furthermore provide a significant and valuable in-kind contribution to NATO BMD.

31 Command and control

32 Space situational awareness