Experiment and innovate on our spacecraft

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Enabling & Support

07/06/2021
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We provide the spacecraft, the tools and some funding. Your job? Come up with innovative experiments you want to run on it.

The OPS-SAT Space Lab is ESA’s only spacecraft ‘open to innovation from anyone’ and enables new ideas, concepts and software to be tested in space. Now, the Discovery element of ESA’s Basic Activities is supporting you to fly your experimental software or test your techniques on an in-space computer more powerful than any ESA has launched before.

Submit your ideas via ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP) by 13 June.

A (funded!) opportunity like no other

Space is an expensive business. Missions are planned years in advance, designed with a specific job in mind and operated according to tightly planned schedules, leaving little room or appetite to take risks.

Ops-Sat

The OPS-SAT Space Lab – a 30-cm CubeSat launched in 2019 – was built with the purpose of testing and validating new ways to solve problems in space. With an experimental computer ten times more powerful than any current ESA spacecraft, and equipped with a full suite of actual or representative payload devices, like a camera and GPS, OPS-SAT is designed to be rock-solid, safe and robust. It can be pushed to its limits, broken, ‘rescued’, and reset for the next experiment. Then you get the feedback you need to prove your ideas work in space.

The in-orbit laboratory has a high resolution camera, a GPS receiver, S- and X- band communication links, processors, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and an attitude determination and control system, all of which can be used by experimenters to demonstrate new mission control and flight operations concepts, tools or techniques that would be too risky for existing missions.

Get funded to fly your experiment in space

In pursuit of the ESA Technology Strategy target of a 30% faster development and adoption of innovative technology, ESA will use its Discovery element to boost novel experiments on  OPS-SAT, the world’s first open, in-orbit testbed for new spacecraft software and applications.

The best ideas will be funded with a budget between €20 000 and €50 000. Examples of experiments run on the spacecraft so far include;

  • Testing image-compression software to improve the scientific return of Earth observation satellites
  • The first test of the ‘Ring Road’ in space — a new communications technology that allows experimenters to test an ‘interplanetary internet’ from the home office
  • Using Artificial Intelligence to identify and filter out low-quality images before they are transmitted back to Earth, saving precious downlink capacity
  • and much more.

Controlled with a SMILE

SMILE! ESA’s mini-mission control facilities now open to the public

Controlled via the SMILE lab at ESA’s ESOC Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, experimenters can make use of every inch of OPS-SAT. Point the spacecraft in any direction, play with its on-board payload and get help and advice from ESA engineers who work day-in, day-out, to make missions come alive. We want to see you, specifically, and spaceflight innovation in Europe, more generally, succeed like never before!

The world’s only spacecraft freely open for experimental use, the OPS-SAT Space Lab is showing us what satellites are capable of when carrying state-of-the-art equipment, demonstrating continuing improvements in mission capabilities and illustrating the tremendous commercial potential of new space technology.

Be part of this exciting mission, and the future of spaceflight. Get your proposals in now.

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