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The challenge of this strategic research cluster (SRC) is to enable major advances in Electric Propulsion (EP) for in-space operations and transportation, in order to contribute to guarantee the leadership through competitiveness and non-dependence[[See definition of "non-dependence" in the Joint EC-ESA-EDA Task Force list of actions for 2015-2017 (<a href=""></a>).]] of European capabilities in electric propulsion at world level within the 2020-2030 timeframe, always in coherence with the existing and planned developments at national, commercial and ESA level.

Furthermore, electric propulsion will have implications on several aspects of space systems, such as the need to increase on-board power supply capabilities, which may be addressed in future calls of this SRC.

  • To anticipate, in the long-term, the necessary evolutions in order to maintain the European capacity to compete in the worldwide arena of electric propulsion satellites, by providing Europe with competitive and innovative EP products in the long-term.
  • To promote and accelerate the development of potentially breakthrough EP or EP-related concepts in order to be able to provoke a disruption in the propulsion landscape in the long-term
  • To identify, target and enable the types of future markets and/or applications which are not yet addressed by the current well-established products or their expected improved versions.


A ‘disruptive space technology’ is an emerging technology that disrupts the status quo of the space sector by replacing the dominant technology and provides a radical improvement in performance that is perceived as valuable by a customer or part of the market, or it opens up new opportunities not possible with the incumbent technology. If a disruptive technology can be identified early enough, accelerating the development of that technology would help sustain advances in performance. Emerging technologies that are potentially ‘disruptive’ often underperform compared to the dominant technology in early development phases – the underlying physics may not be fully understood for example and more R&D is required to properly ascertain performance attributes.

This topic focuses on promoting promising and potentially disruptive concepts in the field of Electric Propulsion, in order to allow the increase of the currently low or very low TRL of breakthrough concepts which in the long term could change the EP landscape.

Proposals are expected in the areas of disruptive technologies for Electric Propulsion and for EP thrusters, that are currently at low TRL (≤ 4) and not part of the incremental lines mentioned above. Indicatively, these disruptive technologies are based on Helicon Plasma Thrusters (HPT), Electron Cyclotron Resonance plasma thrusters (ECR), Magneto Plasma Dynamic thrusters (MPD), pulsed plasma thrusters (PPT), micro-propulsion electric thrusters. This list is non-exhaustive and any other innovative electric thruster concepts and relevant technologies for disruptive electric propulsion systems not mentioned here can be addressed (e.g. direct drive, radical new PPU architectures, dedicated spacecraft power system architectures and/or materials).

Proposals for disruptive technologies shall not address incremental thruster technologies (e.g. micro-GIE, etc.).

A detailed description of the above lines is included in the corresponding guidelines[[<a href=""></a>]].

Proposals should also include a validation plan, including one or more validation methods to apply through the course of the project, which would allow to verify how the development targets are being met and how the landscape disruption shall take place in the future. These plans should be analysed in depth through a dedicated work package within the project.

A maximum of one proposal addressing transversal relevant technologies for disruptive Electric propulsion systems (not thrusters), and a maximum of 4 proposals addressing the remaining ones devoted to specific disruptive EP thrusters will be selected.

The Commission considers that proposals for the disruptive technologies requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 and 1.5 million, would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Grants awarded under this topic will be complementary to each other and complementary to grants awarded under sub-topic COMPET-3-2016-a ("complementary grants"). In order to ensure a smooth and successful implementation of this Strategic Research Cluster (SRC), the beneficiaries of complementary grants ("complementary beneficiaries") shall conclude a written "collaboration agreement". The respective options of Article 2, Article 31.6 and Article 41.4 of the Model Grant Agreement will apply.

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